By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Images of the Interior: Seven Central Australian Photographers
By Philip Jones (Wakefield Press, $39.95, softcover, 161 pages)
It is gratifying to note that the Aborigines and the landscape of Central Australia was initially captured on film by non-professional photographers whose stance was devoid of preconceived idealistic notions.
The photographs record some of the first European impressions of Central Australia’s landscape and society.
This is a refined anthology of the works of seven men who travelled to the centre, between the 1890s and 1940s, and captured unadulterated images of the outback.
The theme of the ‘bush emerged as a formative element in a new Australian identity’ during the 50-year period. It’s said that assumptions about the Central Australian frontier and its people – black and white – then hardened into stereotypes that still affect our perceptions of this country.
The 84 images in this book, from the rich collections of the South Australian Museum, take us behind those stereotypes, to the reality of the frontier itself.
The photographers are: Francis J. Gillen, Captain Samuel Albert White, George Aiston, Ernest Eugene Kramer, Cecil John Hackett, William Delano Walker and Rex Battarbee.
Their photographs also depict the changing times, not only of society and landscapes, but also of the evolution of photography itself.
Author and historian Philip Jones, who has worked for 30 years at the museum,
provides an intellectual overview. A biographical analysis for each proves to be a valuable asset, making this more than just a book of thought-provoking pictures.
The photographers worked hard to gain single images of remarkable places and “convinced Aboriginal people to enter those images, sometimes in the interests of science, sometimes to enhance the sense of the picturesque, but often also, as Samuel Albert White put it, as the ‘right owners of the soil’.”
Edition 406, 22 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.