In Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899), ethnologists Francis J. Gillen and W. Baldwin Spencer
documented the Aboriginal groups living near Alice Springs, with an emphasis on photographing
rituals and ceremonies. While these images set a new standard for anthropological photography, the
authors were oblivious to the impact they would have on the lives of the Aboriginals. The pictures
revealed the gap in knowledge between the authors – whose goal was to show “the exotic natives in
their natural state” – and the subjects, who were unaware of the new medium and how it could
invade their privacy. They also infringed upon Aboriginal cultural protocols by showing sacred sites
and the dead.
Over a century later, growing awareness of the legacy of colonialism has led to indigenouscommunities restricting the use of photography within their territories. Today, taking pictures inthese areas is often prohibited and institutions limit access to the historical record. While suchmeasures constitute a form of protection for Aboriginal people, they can also deprive them of theopportunity to be represented, and therefore acknowledged, as active participants in the history of their own country.
With the complex history of the photographic encounter in mind, Patrick Waterhouse made photographs that were subsequently restricted by the person depicted or a close relation.
Exhibition text from Restricted Images made with the Warlpiri of Central Australia, FotoMuseum Antwerpen, Belgium.
Front and Side Portraits in grids above restricted with Tanya Nungarrayi Collins, Dorothy Napurrurla Dickson, Sabrina Nangala Robertson, Adrianna Nangala Egan, Shanna Napanangka Williams, Nathania Nangala Granites, Athena Nangala Granites, Tasha Nampijinpa Collins, Wilma Napangardi Poulson, Marissa Napanangka Anderson, Julie Nangala Robertson, Lean Nampijinpa Sampson, Angelina Nampijinpa Robertson & Judith Nungarrayi Martin.