Perth, Western Australia, Australia born 1964
Collection Title: blood/type
Place made: Braidwood, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, pigment inkjet print Edition: 1/5
Brenda L. Croft's blood/type is a series of self-portraits based on small photographs originally made on wet collodion tin plates. Collodion was the principal photographic process used between the 1850s-1870s, and one often used in Australia to photograph Aboriginal people. Croft brings this antiquarian process into contact with contemporary technology by scanning the original tin plates and printing them digitally in a way that retains the historical associations or memory of the original antiquarian process. Over these self-portraits, Croft has digitally superimposed descriptors used bureaucratically to categorise her father, Joseph Croft (a Gurindji and Mudpurra man from Northern Territory and a member of the Stolen Generations) and others in her immediate and extended family. Descriptors such as 'full-blood', 'half-blood', 'quarter-caste', 'quadroon' and 'octaroon' form part of a racist taxonomy of terms used historically (and, although less formally, still today) to categorise and define Indigenous people, using a sliding scale of indigeneity that moves from black to near-white. Croft's image – self-defined and resistant – challenges the racist logic of the terms, while at the same time highlighting that there is no single Indigenous way of being.
The power of these self-portraits, unadorned and unflinching, and made with historic and contemporary processes, comes from their brutally honesty, especially when they are considered alongside the narcissistic culture of the contemporary 'selfie'.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra