Accepted Paper:

Invisible Archives  


Catherine De Lorenzo (University of NSW, Sydney)
Juno Gemes (Juno Gemes Archives)

Paper short abstract:

The speakers ask why is it that so much of the visual archive documenting Indigenous struggles in Australia during the 1970s and 80s has become invisible in recent photohistories and survey exhibitions.

Paper long abstract:

The twenty-one years 1967 to 1988 marking the granting of Aboriginal citizenship to the bicentennial of British colonization of Australia, saw the establishment of numerous official and unofficial Aboriginal institutions within Australia, sustained struggles for land rights and self determination, and a Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. Throughout this period and beyond, there exists a substantial photographic record of the people and places indelibly linked to these changes. Much of this post-colonial material can be found in public libraries and pictorial Indigenous histories. The1982 exhibition After the Tent Embassy, which contrasted the colonial and physical anthropological archive with contemporary images of activism and optimism, showed the extent to which non-Indigenous photographers enthusiastically worked with and for Indigenous communities to capture radical transformations within Aboriginal society. However, much of the Aboriginal-commissioned photo documentation and interpretation of Indigenous projects has become all but invisible within contemporary photo discourses, whether presented in photo histories or recent survey exhibitions. At the same time it would seem that the radical activist concept of 'self determination' for Aboriginal land rights has become a signifier for self identity, memory and the reworking of the photo archives (Jonathan Jones, 2011). Having introduced the period and relevant photographic archives, the speakers, photo historian De Lorenzo and activist photographer Gemes who has long contributed to the historic archive, will ask why it is that current textual and exhibition surveys of the period omit key images documenting the struggles for landrights, preferring instead images of individual identity and aspiration?

Panel P05
Reviving the archives as pictorial histories