The Mission, from the series Portrait of a distant land
Ricky Maynard has produced some of the most compelling images of contemporary Aboriginal Australia over the last two decades.
Largely self taught, Maynard began his career as a darkroom technician at the age of sixteen. He first established his reputation with the 1985 series 'Moonbird people', an intimate portrayal of the muttonbirding season on Babel, Big Dog and Trefoil Islands in his native Tasmania. The 1993 series ‘No more than what you see’ documents Indigenous prisoners in South Australian gaols.
He is the recipient of numerous grants and commissions, including a 1990 Commonwealth Government Award to study at the International Centre of Photography in New York. In 1997 he received the Australian Human Rights Award for Photography and is a recipient of the Mother Jones International Documentary Award. In 2003 he was awarded the Kate Challis RAKA award for his work ‘Wik Elder, Arthur’.
Maynard is a lifelong student of the history of photography, particularly of the great American social reformers Jacob Riis, Lewis Hines, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. Maynard's images cut through the layers of rhetoric and ideology that inevitably couch black history (particularly Tasmanian history) to present images of experience itself. His visual histories question ownership; he claims that ‘the contest remains over who will image and own this history…we must define history, define whose history it is, and define its purpose as well as the tools used for the telling it’.
In ‘Portrait of a distant land’ Maynard addresses the emotional connection between history and place. He uses documentary style landscapes to illustrate group portraits of Aboriginal peoples’ experiences throughout Tasmania. Each work combines several specific historical events, creating a narrative of shared experience – for example ‘The Mission’ relies on historical records of a small boy whom Europeans christened after both his parents died in the Risdon massacre. This work highlights the disparity between written, oral and visual histories, as Maynard attempts to create ‘a combination of a very specific oral history as well as an attempt to show a different way of looking at history in general’.
gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned
43.0 x 41.2 cm image; 60.5 x 50.4 cm sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors' Group and the Photography Collection Benefactors' Program 2009
Not on display
© Ricky Maynard. Licensed by Copyright Agency
Where the work was made
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Referenced in 1 publication
Keith Munro, Ricky Maynard: Portrait of a distant land, 2007.