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An image of Aboriginal woman with new born baby, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia by Axel Poignant

Axel Poignant

(England, Australia, England 12 Dec 1906 – 05 Feb 1986)

Aboriginal woman with new born baby, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia
Other titles:
Aboriginal girl with new born baby. Canning Stock Route, Western Australia
printed 1980
Media category
Materials used
gelatin silver photograph

32.9 x 28.4 cm image; 44.5 x 38.0 cm sheet

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. sheet, pencil "Axel Poignant 1980". Dated l.c. sheet, pencil "...1942".
Purchased 1978
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Though not born in Australia, Axel Poignant's work is largely about the 'Outback', its flora and fauna and the traditions of Australian and Indigenous identity. Poignant was born in Yorkshire in 1906 to a Swedish father and English mother, and arrived in Australia in 1926 seeking work and adventure. After tough early years of unemployment and homelessness, he eventually settled in Perth and found work as a portrait photographer, before taking to the road and the bush in search of new subjects. Poignant became fascinated with the photo-essay as a means of adding real humanity to the medium, and much of his work is in this form. The close relationships he developed with Aborigines on his travels are recorded in compassionate portraits of these people and their lives - the low angles and closely cropped frames appear more natural and relaxed than the stark compositions of earlier ethnographic photography.

Bibliography (7)

Natasha Bullock, Australian postwar photodocumentary, Sydney, 2004. no catalogue numbers

Helen Ennis, Photography and Australia, London, 2007, 80 (illus.). fig.43, as 'Mary'

Josef Lebovic Gallery and Helen Ennis, Masterpieces of Australian Photography, Twentieth Century Photography, Sydney, 1989, 182, 183 (illus). 326

Robert McFarlane, Critic's Choice, Sydney, 1994.

Gael Newton, Edmund Capon and Hal Missingham, Axel Poignant retrospective, Sydney, 1982, foreward (illus.). 29

Gael Newton, Silver and Grey - Fifty Years of Australian Photography 1900-1950, 1980. plate no. 98

Rose Peel, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian postwar photo-documentary', pg.189-207, Sydney, 2007, 194.

Exhibition history (5)

Axel Poignant: photographs 1922-1980, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Jul 1982–29 Aug 1982

A changing relationship: Aboriginal themes in Australian art, c.1938-1988, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, 08 Jun 1988–31 Jul 1988

Critic's Choice, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Apr 1994–10 Jul 1994

We Are Family, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Oct 1994–20 Nov 1994

Australian postwar photodocumentary, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jun 2004–08 Aug 2004