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Image credit: Mervyn Bishop, courtesy of National Indigenous Australians Agency and Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney

Happy NAIDOC Week everyone!

This year’s theme for NAIDOC is ‘heal country’. To celebrate Indigenous history, culture and achievement, and recognise that country and identity are intertwined, we are acknowledging some of the incredible photographs taken by First Nations photographers.

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


We start with Mervyn Bishop’s iconic image above, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional landowner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory 1975.  This image is part of our Paper Tigers exhibition and book and just one from his long and distinguished career. The National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra currently has a new exhibition celebrating Merv Bishop’s work, open until 1 August 2021. 


Black and white photo of Indigenous dancersImage credit: Wayne Quilliam

The image above is by photographer and filmmaker Wayne Quilliam, who was National NAIDOC Indigenous Artist of the Year in 2009. It is from his 2013 exhibition Lowanna, the land and community: a collection and features on the cover of his new book Culture is Life.


A bible on red earthImage credit: Michael Riley

Michael Riley has exhibited his series flyblown 1998 nationally and internationally, and in Photography and Place – works by 18 Australian photographers, from the 1970s onward in 2011.  The series visually links the Australian landscape with religious symbolism, exploring Indigenous spirituality’s deep connections to country.  This series of nine works is held in the collections of the National Gallery, Canberra and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.


An Indigenous man in period attire sits side saddle on a horseImage credit: Michael Cook

Michael Cook’s image from his 2013 exhibition Hear no.. Speak no… See no… depicts Indigenous Australians in period attire of the four European powers that visited Australia around the time of colonisation: the Dutch, Spanish, French, and English.  This work asks us to consider how differently history might have played out if the Europeans had realised that Australia’s First Peoples were indeed civilised.

A man with a bright hand made headdress

Image credit: Dr Christian Thompson AO

Dr Christian Thomspon AO, an artist of Bidjara heritage, has exhibited with Michael Reid Gallery in a number of featured exhibitions as part of Head On Photo Festival in the past, including Pagan Sun in 2014. Thompson’s work addresses pertinent issues of identity, cultural hybridity and history through the clever use of self-portraiture.

Ricky MaynardImage credit: Ricky Maynard

Ricky Maynard’s work talks of the deep spiritual connection to place experienced by Indigenous people, particularly in his native Tasmania.  His photo The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania featured in The Photograph and Australia at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2015. This work is on display in the 20th and 21st century Australian art collections at the Gallery.


Tracy Moffatt - Something more #1 1989Image credit: Tracey Moffatt AO

Through carefully constructed imagery, this quintessential and iconic series Something More by artist Tracey Moffatt AO explores hopes and dreams that transcend socio-economic status, race and gender.  Made in 1989 during Moffatt’s arist-in-residence at Albury Regional Art Centre, all nine images of Something More now resides in the collection of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.  Tracey Moffatt is one of Australia’s most prominent artists both at home and on the international art scene.


Brenda L CroftImage credit: Brenda L. Croft

Brenda L. Croft is a is an artist, curator, lecturer and freelance writer, from the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra peoples in the Victoria River region of the Northern Territory. This striking photo was in the National Photographic Portrait Prize in 2020.  It is of Aunty Matilda House, a Ngambri/Ngunnawal Elder from Canberra. Entitled Matilda (Ngambri/Ngunnawal), the photo is part of a series, Naabami (Thou shall/will see): I am/We are Barangaroo.


JudithCrispinImage credit: Dr Judith Crispin

This image by Dr Judith Crispin has been created through her lumachrome glass printing process.  She describes works produced this way as a “genuine collaboration with the landscape. They are literally constructed from light, earth and flesh.” She invented this printing process herself, producing multiple layers to get the fine details that are visible in these luminescent works. This image was featured in Where I Stand, a collaboration with aMBUSH Gallery in Canberra, which comprised visual tales captured simply but powerfully in single frames.

Barbara McGradyImage credit: Barbara McGrady

And to finish up these wonderful images, here is an eye-catching image by Aunty Barbara McGrady, that also featured in Where I Stand at Kambri, ANU in Canberra.  Barbara’s images tell the story of contemporary Indigenous history through her unique sociological eye.


We do hope you enjoy this incredible work by these talented photographers as much as we do. If you think we’ve missed an amazing First Nations photographer, let us know and we’ll be sure to check them out.

Enjoy NAIDOC week!




Head On Foundation (est. 2008) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting photographers' work at all career stages. We encourage excellence and innovation, make photography accessible to all, and raise awareness of important issues through the medium. The Foundation's main activities are Head On Photo Festival and Head On Awards (Portrait, Landscape, and Student photographic prizes) and an annual program of collaborative projects. Head On Foundation is a bridge between Australian and international photography markets. The festival has toured in the US, China, India, Europe, and New Zealand, introducing the global arts community to the wealth of photographic talent Australia possesses.

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Image detail: Gary Ramage