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Ben Lomond/Cape Portland peoples

Launceston, Tasmania, Australia born 1953

Vansittart Island 2005
Collection Title: Portrait of a Distant Land
Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Dimensions: 40.8 h x 58.6 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2009
Accession No: NGA 2009.197.5
Image rights: © Ricky Maynard. Licensed by Viscopy

Following similar paths trodden by documentary photographers in different cultural contexts who also undertook epic series—Ansel Adams spent a lifetime documenting the Yosemite National Park—Maynard creates social, historical and deeply personal narratives that celebrate, honour and portray the history of Tasmanian Aboriginal people from an Aboriginal perspective. In doing so, Portrait of a distant land 2007 highlights little known cultural and political aspects of contemporary Australian history.

Captured in the form of a visual diary, these 10 images are the first chapter of a longer story which aims to address the misunderstandings of history and the absence of an Aboriginal presence within a Tasmanian narrative until recently. Equally important aspects of this body of work are the historical excerpts and personal quotes by Ricky and community members who have maintained cultural traditions growing up on the islands of the Bass Strait. These poignant references uncover a deeper layer of meaning in each image and provide unique insights into our understanding of place.

Maynard is considered in his approach to the images in this series, taken in large analogue format. He is also respectful of the way people included in the photographs would like to present themselves to the camera and have their stories represented, through his long-held belief of co-authorship in picture-making. Consequently, Maynard encourages deeper discussions, both historically and in the present tense, regarding the role of the photographer, the power of the photograph and its ability to frame a culture. Portrait of a distant land becomes a statement about histories; those that are conflicting and that vary from the accepted dominant narrative.

Keith Munro

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010