How I started photographing Indigenous Australians

Photographing Indigenous Australians began fortuitously.  I was just getting into photography and had got into the good habit of always having a camera with me.  I was doing some work in my regular day job as a psychologist that took me to the DHS office in Fitzroy, an inner suburb of Melbourne.

On my way back to my car I saw a group of fairly raucous people off in the distance.  I had seen members of this group often as they congregated, often drinking, in Smith St.  For whatever reason, I chose in the past to walk past staring ahead or crossed the road.  But this day, I didn't do this.  Instead I decided I would ask one of the group if I could take a photograph.  This opportunity arose almost as soon as the thought came into my head as a man exited a fruit shop.  "Is it OK if I take your photo?"  Before I knew it I was being escorted to another man in a leather jacket, my guide asking, "This bloke wants to take photos of us."  The second man, who later introduced himself to me as Harry, and is an Elder, said "Yeah, that's alright." 

Harry, photographed on the day I met him.

Very soon I was being asked by many members of the group if I could also take their photos.  This was something I continued to encounter every time I spent time with any of them.  For me it was a joy, as I had a reason to sit with them and get to know them.  I would make prints to give to the people I photographed whenever I visited.

This was the beginning of a set of relationships that have now continued for nearly four years.  I have just returned from visiting that first man who took me up to Harry and told him I wanted to take photos.  His name is Dootrule, and he is an Elder of the Wurundjeri People.  I have got to know and admire him over the years.  I have made many photos of him, many of which appear in the Stock photos of Indigenous Australians on this site.  Together we also made a video, that you can also find by clicking here, that attempts to tell some of the story of his separation from his family, his recent triumph over a dependency on alcohol, and his partner, Tracey's history of family separation.

Dootrule, on the day I met him for the first time in October 2009.

As a result of simply asking if I could make some photos I have got to meet and learn about people I otherwise never would have.  My life has been enriched as a result, and I am very grateful for the openness, friendliness and kind welcome I have experienced..