PREFACE
t
AshistoriansofAustralianphotographyhavenotedinpassing,Aboriginal
peoplewereanenduringsourceof interestalmostfromthemedium’san-
tipodeaninceptionin1846.Thelinkbetweenphotographyandcolonialism
was especially strong in the colony of Victoria, on the southern edge of
theAustraliancontinent,wherethenewtechniquewasintroducedtoward
the end of the first decade of invasion.Victoria was established relatively
late,in1835,butthescaleandefficiencyofpastoralsettlementsawdread-
fuldisruptiontoindigenoussocietywithintwentyyears.Theresponseof
the colonial administration was to confine Aboriginal people to missions
orreservesfromaround1860,anditwastotheseplaces,asiftoazoo,that
manyvisitorscametoobserveandphotographtheresidents.Theresulting
archivetellsushowWesternsocietycametounderstandAboriginalpeople
throughtheauthority,accessibility,andimpactofvisualimagery.Yetitalso
reflectsindigenousobjectivesandvalues,andconfiguresanintimateform
ofcross-culturalcommunication.
Thisbookisaboutthewaysthatapowerfulvisuallanguagewasshaped
throughaprocessofexchangebetweenblackandwhite.Ratherthanseeing
photographypurelyasatoolofthecolonialproject,acloserlookatthepro-
ductionandconsumptionofthephotographicimagesunderscrutinyhere
reveals a dynamic and performative relationship between photographer
andAboriginalsubject.Mission-eraphotographycommunicatedarange
of ideas about Aboriginal people in their intended absence from main-
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