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Image: Lowell Hunter, Head On Foundation’s featured exhibition apart of Head On Photo Festival 2021, ‘First Sight‘.

Originating with the 1938 Day of Mourning, NAIDOC Week has celebrated and promoted the history, culture and achievements of First Nations peoples for over 80 years. This year’s theme for NAIDOC is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!  From family portraits to Australian landscapes, we have compiled a selection of incredible photographs taken by First Nations artists and others covering Indigenous stories you should check out.

Caution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article may contain images of people who have passed.

Wayne Quilliam

Image: Wayne Quilliam, Head On Photo Awards 2020 landscape finalist with the image ‘Djiwarr ‘To see from above”.

“As the old people share stories of culture and land, painting the spiritual narrative from an ethereal position, my modern technology realises their stories and reflects the past into the future.”

Adjunct Professor Wayne Quilliam is one of Australia’s most respected Indigenous photographers/artist/curators/videographers and cultural advisers working at a local, national and international level. His award-winning career includes the coveted National Portrait Prize 2022, National NAIDOC Indigenous Artist of the Year, nominated as a Master of Photography by National Geographic, winner of Business of the Year for the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council and finalist in numerous photographic and art awards. Wayne won the 2008 Human Rights Media Award for his work on the Apology and the prestigious Walkley Award for his social documentary on the Redfern Riots.

Ingetje Tadros

Image:  Ingetje Tadros, Head On Photo Festival 2016 featured exhibition ‘This Is My Country’

“I was appalled that people are living in such poverty in a country like Australia, which is so rich. People are living in very old and unmaintained houses in Broome, a tourist mecca, where people fly in from all over the world to enjoy this beautiful place…”

Dutch photographer Ingetje Tadros has lived in Broome for twelve years. Five years ago she picked up the camera and recorded what she saw in the Indigenous communities in and around Broome. The results are strong and confronting to a white population who believe their government is doing all it can for Aboriginal people in this country. These photographs are strong and uncompromising in their portrayal of how things are in certain parts of Australia, a country we value for its egalitarianism… Continue reading here.

Barbara McGrady

Image: Barbara McGrady, Head On Foundation in collaboration with aMBUSH Gallery exhibition ‘Where I Stand’.

Barbara McGrady (QLD/NSW) is a Gamilaroi/Gomeroi Murri Yinah (Woman) and a passionate advocate for telling the true stories of contemporary Aboriginal life, documenting her mob’s achievements, humanity and beauty through a unique lens. As both an observer and protagonist in the ongoing conflict between Aboriginal culture, spiritual connection to country and Australian colonial sensibilities, McGrady clearly defines the implications of this disconnect in her work.

Justin McManus

Image: Justin McManus, Head On Photo Awards 2020 portrait finalist with the image ‘Landon and Joey

“Landon Punch is a Yindjibarndi man who lives in Roebourne, Western Australia. Landon and Joey were part of the story, ‘Life after death in custody,’ on the fallout for Aboriginal people who have lost loved ones and community members to police violence or neglect while in police custody. Landon had killed the baby kangaroo’s mother for food. He said, “I will now hand-rear the joey until it is big enough to survive in the bush.”

Michael Cook

Image: Michael Cook, Laser Girls, from Invasion, 2017. Read the Head On Interactional article with Michael Cook here.

“The adopted Indigenous child of a white family, Cook says the humour he employs in his work is informed by growing up in Australia in the 70s and 80s. Bottom line, he says, if you didn’t laugh off the racism, you’d end up in a fight every day: it was that common an occurrence, even among the friends he grew up with. Images such as possums flying, attacking metropolitan London in UFOs, from his 2017 series Invasion, illustrate how Cook wraps confronting messages in light-hearted, almost absurdist imagery”

Michael Cook (QLD) is an award-winning photographer of Bidjara heritage who has worked commercially in Australia and overseas for twenty-five years. In 2009, he began to make art photography, driven by an increasingly urgent desire to explore issues of identity. His photographic series are unique in their approach, evocatively recreating incidents that emerge from Australian colonial history.

Belinda Mason

Image: Belinda Mason, Head On Photo Festival 2013 featured exhibition ‘BLACK ON WHITE‘.

The project BLACK ON WHITE began back in 2008, when photographer Belinda Mason travelled to remote communities in Arnhem Land NT, at the first anniversary of the Australian Governments Intervention Policy to hear community reactions and ask them to record a visual record of their opinion… The projects original goal was to enable Balanda (white, Arnhem Land) people to have an insight to the viewpoint of Aboriginal  (Yolngu, Arnhem Land) Australians have on white Australians and their culture. Since then, the project has expanded across Australia,  and added their voices to this exhibition. See more.

Melinda Hooper

Image: Melinda Hooper, Head On Foundation’s featured exhibition apart of Head On Photo Festival 2021, ‘First Sight‘.

“My two girls are so different in personalities, and I can see it even more as they get older. I just liked the seriousness. They’re beautiful, but they don’t know it. I shot it in black and white because I love that it gives you raw emotion without being distracted by colour. And you can ponder, what are they thinking at that time?”

As a kid, I’d always liked taking photos, especially since there weren’t many of me growing up. Now I want my kids to have memories – and have many photos of them. I started doing family photos, and building on this, eventually set up Milly Moments.

Lowell Hunter

Image: Lowell Hunter, Head On Foundation’s featured exhibition apart of Head On Photo Festival 2021, ‘First Sight‘.

“Created on Wathurong lands at Barwon Heads near Geelong, this artwork represents my relationship to the ocean and saltwater Country. Being connected to the ocean and having the water rush over my skin is like a cleansing process.

I often refer to this cleansing feeling and process and try to describe it as how people might experience a smoking ceremony in the same way.”

A dancer, artist and storyteller, Lowell Hunter, a proud Nyul Nyul Saltwater man, has a keen interest in Country and the relationship we share with Country. He uses a layered approach, creating work that is often richer than just one photo.

David Maurice Smith

Image: David Maurice Smith, Head On Photo Awards 2013 portrait finalist with the image Rhianna’

“For five-year-old Rhianna Harris of WIlcannia, NSW, growing up Aboriginal in Australia means being confronted with challenges not faced by her non-Aboriginal counterparts. The sacred innocence of youth will be challenged by an imposing socioeconomic gap and circumstances that despite being out of her control, will shape her opportunities and her future.”

Kaleesha Morris

Image: Kaleesha Morris, Head On Photo Festival 2013 associated exhibition ‘Ngarraanga nginundi Yuludara. Remember your Dreaming‘.

“The works in Ngarraanga nginundi Yuludara. Remember your Dreaming, illustrate the intimate connections Aboriginal people, particularly youth- still retain with their sense of Aboriginality and connectedness to Country. The young identities of the oldest surviving race on the planet…”

Emerging photographer Kaleesha Morris is a proud Gumbaynggirr and Kulkagal (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) woman from Grafton NSW, Australia – passionate about the empowerment and cultural revival of her people.

We hope you enjoy NAIDOC week. We can’t wait to display even more First Nations communities’ heritage, talent and ingenuity at Head On Photo Festival this November.

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Head On Photo Awards 2024

Entries to the Head On Photo Awards 2024 open in May/June.

Image detail: Gary Ramage