Making the case for subject voice in narrative photography captions.

CW: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this article contains names and images of people who may have passed away.

Nancy Newhall’s essay ‘The caption’ (1952) sees her generation of narrative photographers on the brink of a new world: the rise of the wordless book of photographs after centuries of imageless books of words. Writing at a time when the word ‘caption’ had no dictionary definition in the context of photography, she introduces the additive caption as ‘… the newest form, risen into prominence to answer a new need. It does not state or narrate some…


A response to Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu

I have native grains in my field, myrnong in my vegetable garden. I want to know Dark Emu’s story.

A difficulty arises: Can I asses the use of landscape for surely it’s fixed in landscape? Can I assess the use of chronology for surely a history demands chronology? Metaphor is embedded like buckshot in a rabbit: ‘unpick the threads of Australia’s Bayeux tapestry to reveal what the victors want to hide’ — but none of these feels right.

So with book and facemask I walk into old native forest, where the great snake of the Carringum balug clan carved the…


The colours are so subtle, the English couturists of the early 20th century had to turn to the French nomenclature, as their own language had failed them: eau de Nil, ecru, vielle rose, champagne, beige, taupe, verdigris, bleu francais, nue. …

Pam Swanborough

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