Photographing Indiginous People

Submitted: Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:07
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Can someone please tell me, what the normal, and accepted protocol is, for photographing Aboriginal people in the Western Australian & Northern Territory deserts?

I am led to believe that they can be reticent to passing travellers, therefore making it difficult to converse with them.

Without appearing to simply be a tourist, ( which I am ), and simply wanting to take some photos and move on, ( which I do), how DOES one manage to at least be peripherally involved in what is going on at each location, without looking to be, shall we say......... invasive, and crass?

Cheers

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Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:22

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:22
Hey wolfie,, Why all the hard questions so late at nite???
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Follow Up By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:26

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:26
Just have another Bourbon!!!!! LOL
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Reply By: emmetguy - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:31

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:31
I guess it depends on what you intend to do with the images.. For personal use just for your album, it shouldnt be a problem, id ask first, but if you intend to market and sell the images, thats a different matter. Or if your desperate for the shots, tinted windows and a 300mm lens should do the trick.
AnswerID: 108302

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:44

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:44
Definitely only personal use.

I wish to have a photo journal of my trip, that as well as landscapes, also shows people doing & living.

Wolfie
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Reply By: Steve - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:33

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:33
Imagine you were in the same situation...(but you probably can't seeing as you are asking the question ) you would be a bitbleepoff if some black fellows came up and took ure photo in you home environment and shot you in the face with a camera lens !!! and then revved up and shot through...as one does !! and they were all 'tourists'...hope the penny drops ...
AnswerID: 108303

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:10

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:10
Rather self-righteous Steve.

You have anything useful to say or are you just beating the usual politically correct drum?

I take it you've not visited many of the places across the planet where exactly what you pontificate about happens every day? In both the Third and the First world, before you get carried away with that one too.

Mike Harding

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Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:49

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:49
Steve, I had actually thought about this. The thing is, is that I have also been led to believe that if you ask, you can sometimes be verbally chastised, which is not where I want to be.

Sort of a catch 22 situation, but I want to go about it properly.

I guess I'm going to have to wing a lot of it...

Wolfie
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Follow Up By: timglobal - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:52

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:52
As a reposte, I was asked several times in Jakarta for pictures of myself (tall westerner) taken with local Indonesian tourist's families and kids. It was most bemusing to be there as a tourist and a novelty myself.

I got confused at first thinking they wanted me to take a picture of them. I guess my type isn't that common to those outside tourist areas. All were very friendly and polite by note. Still makes me smirk to think that several Indonesian families have a picture of me holding their toddler, with wife and children around me. My ex-pat hosts expressed surprise at the number of requests, but had experienced the same.

To your point, courtesy, humility and interaction are the key. Don't be a seagull tourist - flys in, making lots of noise and fuss, begging around, making a mess, then flys off again. ;)

Tim

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Reply By: Exploder - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:45

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 20:45
Hi Lone Wolf

I believe that you just nicely ask them if it would be all right and explain your reasons. You may have to go to the elder’s in some community’s. I recall reading a book by a well-known Australian photographer can’t remember the book though (Jeez how convenient)

Another option is grab the biggest lens in your kit and head for a hill. That is what this bloke did a few of times to get a shot.

I would stick with the first option though.
AnswerID: 108306

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:51

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:51
Yes, the first option is where I wish to head, along with an 18 - 55 lens... plenty of DOF.

Cheers

Wolfie
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Reply By: Footloose - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:08

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:08
Depends on the community and the person. The Aboriginal Lands Councils often have good advice on this topic on their websites.
AnswerID: 108314

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:15

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:15
Agree with Footloose. You must keep in mind some of these people have had very little exposure to Western attitudes (or want it!) - and who can blame them?

I don't think there is a "standard" just use the normal courtesy you would apply to anyone - and you always sound like a courteous man to me :)

Mike Harding
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Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:52

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:52
Footloose & Mike.....

Would you be kind enough to point me in a direction with some URL's?

Cheers

Wolfie
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FollowupID: 365097

Follow Up By: Member - bushfix - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 07:24

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 07:24
G'day Wolfie,

try here

for some help.

kind regards,

Jeremy.
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Follow Up By: Footloose - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 08:34

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 08:34
Wokfie, I notice that some good links have been posted and one gentleman has offered his assistance.
You are lucky, offers of assistance aren't easy to get. It usually takes a few years of getting to know people etc.
A good place to start is your tour operator. They often have gone to extremes to establish long term relationships within the communities that they visit.
A couple of URLs
http://www.dia.wa.gov.au/Land/Permits/PermitMap.aspx?region=3
http://www.clc.org.au/permits/permits.asp

Hope this is of interest.
Cheers
Footie
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FollowupID: 365129

Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:36

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:36
I have found that if you have been talking to or kicking the footy with a group of kids they are happy to have a photo taken if you ask them. Similarly, if you have established some sort of rapport with an artist at work they are usually happy to have a photo taken. I think it would be pretty hard to walk up to a stranger though and just ask to take a photo for no particular reason. In some areas photography is not permitted at all. This applies in some communities, for instance, where you might be tempted to take a photo to remind yourself how squalid conditions can be.
AnswerID: 108326

Follow Up By: Footloose - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:03

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:03
It's pretty hard to break the ice in a lot of communities. You can't just walk in and say hey I'd love to ask you a few questions/take a few photos. If you're really interested, try and find someone who can introduce or recommend you to someone in the community, perhaps an elder.
Remember that each community is different, as are the people who live there.
If you had screaming hoards of terrorists zooming through your backyard, you probably wouldn't be too friendly either :))
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FollowupID: 365088

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:55

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:55
" In some areas photography is not permitted at all..."

Bob, thank you. This is something I was not aware of, until you pointed it out.

Wolfie
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Reply By: bazpickle - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:47

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 21:47
I actually live in Arnhem Land, Gove to be exact. The land council will not allow me to photograph the locals, but go to the web site www.nlc.org.au, and there are gidelines for what you want to do in the media section. It mostly explains how Indiginous people are not to be portreyed in a defamitory manner through photograghy or any other medium. MOST important though, Indiginous people are really thingy about seeing or hearing deceaced family and the like. Personal advice is a long lense and try not to intrude on their personal space. Good luck with getting the permits you require for up here, the land council is extremely unhelpful!
AnswerID: 108330

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:57

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:57
Bazpickle, thankyou for the URL. I am loading it as I type this to you.

The permits have all ready been arranged, through the tour company.

Cheers

Wolfie
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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:45

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:45
Years ago, I was at Anna Creek Station which had "in residence" a local tribe of Aboriginals, including one old dear lady in a yellow dress and pink cardigan who was actually soliciting for her photo to be taken.......for 20 cents per photographer.
She was a real character.

Good business.....no political bull bleep ...... everybody happy.

Bill


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AnswerID: 108343

Reply By: Padre - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:54

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 22:54
Hi There Lone Wolf,

I have lived on Aboriginal Communities here in Central Australia for the last 10 years> At present i am living on a community just a short Distance from Alice Springs. Let me know when you will be in the are and I will help you out if I can.

Regards
Padre
AnswerID: 108349

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 23:01

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2005 at 23:01
Padre, this is most welcome!

I am on an organised tour, and the itinerary has been set, although could change at any time.

I am Adelaide based, and I remember one of my Sign Writing clients moving up to near your area, to run a mission.

Cheers

Wolfie
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Reply By: Goran - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:06

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:06
" how DOES one manage to at least be peripherally involved in what is going on at each location, without looking to be, shall we say......... invasive, and crass? "

Crack a tinnie mate, and make sure there are a few left in the carton. There will be no shotage of local population around you. You be able to take all the pictures you like.
AnswerID: 108363

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 07:13

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 07:13
I'll get too wobbly, and won't be able to take piccies..... then I'll have to ask THEM, to take a piccie of me......

Wolfie
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Reply By: Kumunara (SA) - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:14

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:14
Some communities ban photographs completely. Each community and area has different attitudes to this question.

Many people make the mistake of believing there is one Aboriginal Culture. Aboriginals are represented by a large number of language groups and each group has its own culture. That includes attitudes to the taking of photographs.

If you approach Aboriginal people with respect they will advise you if the taking of photographs is allowed.

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AnswerID: 108364

Reply By: D-Jack - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:31

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:31
Move to a community in a service capacity, get to know some of the clan, begin to understand their culture and heritage, be accepted as a family member when you can then identify as an Aboriginal person. This may take in excess of 10 years. You will then be able to take photographs no questions asked.

D-Jack
AnswerID: 108367

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 07:19

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 07:19
Whoa!! Sounds like the country town I grew up in......

Townsfolk with lineage that probably stretched back to the Jurassic period.

Say something about Joe Blow, and look out........ Turns out he's got 15 uncles, 76 aunts, 3 parents... ( go figure ), 18 brothers, and tick at every shop in town.

Wolfie
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Reply By: muzzgit (WA) - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:56

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 00:56
My girlfriend took a photo of a buiding while in Alice Springs, and a few locals were standind along the wall. They chased her and gave her a right mouthfull for taking their photo. Something was mentioned about "white fella stealing my soul"

I'm not sure what it means, I wasn't there.

ASK FIRST.
AnswerID: 108372

Follow Up By: Member - Davoe (WA) - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 01:49

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 01:49
I think you will find the ones in Alice hanging around are more like the ones you see hanging around most country centres and not communities and were more interested in trouble- there souls would already be long gone
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Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 18:10

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 18:10
>"white fella stealing my soul"

Whenever I hear that line I'm always reminded of the scene from Crocodile Dundee when the attractive American female photographer is about to take a photograph of Dundee's inept Aboriginal friend and the friend says "Hold it lady! You can't take my photo!" and she asks "Oh... do you believe it will steak your soul?" to which he replies "No. You've still got the lens cap on".

Mike Harding
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Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 18:35

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 18:35
Why waste the film? You havent seen them before?
AnswerID: 108446

Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 19:10

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 19:10
lol!!!

What I am trying to achieve, is a record of my trip, but not just landscapes & campsites.

I want to be able to have my photo journal look a little like something you would see in say, perhaps..... National Geographic.

I find travelogues are more interesting when they show people doing stuff.

Cheers

Wolfie
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Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 19:56

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 19:56
Then get your missus or kids to stand there.

bleephaving to ask people
"oh do you mind if I take a photo of that rock, but you maybe in it by accident... I hope you dont mind didums"...
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FollowupID: 365210

Reply By: normc - Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 20:18

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 at 20:18
I understand exactly where you are coming from Lone Wolf. But I think you can distill some good advice from some of the responses here. I'm no expert, but I did grow up in a country town with a large aboriginal population (before political correctness became an issue. Simply be respectful. If you are close and the people are to be central to the photo, ask. Be prepared for some knock backs and some aggressive responses. But take them on the chin and don't be deterred. You should also get some good responses along with some great pictures and experiences.
Good luck
normc
AnswerID: 108469

Reply By: emmetguy - Saturday, Apr 30, 2005 at 10:01

Saturday, Apr 30, 2005 at 10:01
Whoa, lord have mercy if youre still using something with FILM in it. With DIDGI take a few snaps and show the kids/subjects the results on the LCD screen. Im sure any hostilities will be nulled if you involve and have a bit of fun with the clan..
AnswerID: 108907

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