Return: The photographic archive and technologies of Indigenous memory

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18 Citations (Scopus)


This paper considers the intersection of Aboriginal traditions surrounding photography and the use of new technologies as both a research tool and a community resource. Over recent decades Australian cultural institutions have radically altered their management of photographic archives in response to changing political and intellectual circumstances – especially Indigenous advocacy. A sense of moral obligation has become the arbiter of new cultural protocols that have moved far beyond legal provisions for protecting intellectual property. Experiments with new digital tools attempt to understand and balance the role of photographs of Aboriginal people within Indigenous and Western knowledge systems. However, cultural protocols rely significantly upon representations of “remote” Aboriginal communities in northern Australia that emphasize difference and reify practices that may in fact be fluid, and overlap with Western values. In the aftermath of colonialism, photographs are important to Aboriginal communities, especially in southern Australia, not merely as an extension of tradition, but also in the context of colonial dispossession and loss. As a form of Indigenous memory the photographic archive may address the exclusions and dislocations of the recent past, recovering missing relatives and stories, and revealing a history of photographic engagement between colonial photographers and Indigenous subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-187
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


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