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Australian art


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The rabbit trapper

circa 1947


David Potts


22 Jul 1926 - 2012


David Potts was recognised early in his career as a perceptive observer of society with an ability to capture the essential mood of a situation. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1944 and following war service trained in photography under the Repatriation Scheme. After working in the Department of Medical Illustration at the University of Sydney he began work in the Russell Roberts photographic studio which concentrated on fashion and commercial work. ‘The rabbit trapper’ has become David Potts’s iconic image of Australian bush life, taken in Dorrigo, on assignment for a magazine article.

Dorrigo in northern New South Wales, rich in rainforest timber during the 19th century, was later cleared for dairy farms. The proliferation of rabbits and their destruction of country was particularly hard felt by farmers during the 1930s and 1940s. The Depression forced people to trap rather than shoot rabbits which were then sold for meat or pelts. The processed fur felt formed another Australian icon – the Akubra, made famous by the Diggers’ slouch hats, country men and it appears – rabbit trappers. This intimate portrait captures a man who listens and yarns, hat pushed off his forehead as he leans against the stove, relaxed in his kitchen. The utensils hanging on the wall imply the rabbit trapper is more than just a cook of rabbit stew, making pastry, grates, skims and beats. The backlighting of the figure captures the weathered wrinkled face, but as he engages with someone to his left in his simple room it is his eyes that become the singular feature. The watcher is being watched.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007



circa 1947

Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph, vintage


47.1 x 31.1 cm image/sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of the artist 1980


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

David Potts

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


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

Helen Ennis, Photography and Australia, London, 2007, 98 (illus.). fig.53

Ewen McDonald, AGNSW Collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 60 (illus.).

Gael Newton, Silver and Grey - Fifty Years of Australian Photography 1900-1950, 1980. plate no. 95

Gael Newtown, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Photography - Australian, European and American', pg. 67-84, Sydney, 1981, 80. 34

Rose Peel, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian postwar photo-documentary', pg.189-207, Sydney, 2007, 194, 196 (illus.).