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An image of Narrana, at sun up, daubed with clay. Liverpool River Arnhem Land by Axel Poignant

Axel Poignant

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

Narrana, at sun up, daubed with clay. Liverpool River Arnhem Land
Other titles:
Portrait, Liverpool River, Arnhem Land (Narrana smiling)
printed 1981
Media category
Materials used
gelatin silver photograph

27.9 x 26.0 cm image; 37.5 x 32.4 cm sheet

Signature & date
Signed l.r. sheet and l.c. verso, ink "Axel Poignant". Dated l.c. verso, pencil "...1952".
Gift of the artist 1982
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 (1)

Josef Lebovic Gallery and Helen Ennis, Masterpieces of Australian Photography, Twentieth Century Photography, Sydney, 1989, 182, 183 (illus.). 327