Editorial: Indigenous Photographies

Jane Lydon, Angela Wanhalla

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From the invention of photography, Indigenous people were a popular photographic subject, contributing to a visual language of race given force by global comparisons and debates. As historians of race and science have shown, throughout the nineteenth century the world’s Indigenous people were considered to constitute evidence for Western conceptions of progress and civilisation by supplying evidence for ‘humanity’s childhood’. Photography was invented at a time when a profound shift in ideas concerning race was well underway, from Enlightenment assumptions of a common origin and humanity, to modernist concepts of race as biologically distinct species. Indigenous Australians were considered to represent a distinct place in human taxonomies, and in consequence, the camera was quickly applied to recording them for a metropolitan audience, producing a vast number of photographs that were subsumed into an already flourishing traffic in colonial natural history specimens. Yet more recently, this historical archive, and photographs produced by Indigenous peoples themselves, have become tools for decolonisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-216
Number of pages4
JournalHistory of Photography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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