Portraits of language custodians and Elders

These portraits show the strength, determination and dedication of language custodians who keep ancient culture thriving. 

Road trips! A great Australian tradition. Love them or hate them, you always get more than you bargain for, and this one was no exception. After days and days of crack of dawn starts, gigabytes of images, and a helluva cold, I’d arrived back to our photography studio at the Library with my head full of landscapes and stories from the hearts of the Elders and language experts who shared them.

We’d travelled through drought barren, open plain horizons, rainforests edged by the sea, ginormous gorges where we were dwarfed by mountains. It was starkly surreal for me to imagine what life would’ve been like before white settlement.

 The most touching part was meeting these strong and determined knowledge holders (pictured) who were full of strength and determination, who radiated warmth, cheeky humour and generosity of spirit.

We’d been guests on their Country, and were shown such hospitality that I wanted to reciprocate by welcoming them to our studio, without feeling intimidated under lights and lenses. I had no reason to worry though. As each sitter took their turn in front of my camera they were met with ga-fuws and hoots and whistles and cat calls, egging each other on. 

Despite the raucousness and after the main ‘agitator’ was removed from the room (a futile attempt to contain the hilarity), we captured these portraits, which I’m super proud of. 

Portraits of Aboriginal language custodians and Elders

1. Aunty Maureen Sulter
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2. Rhonda Ashby
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3. Callum Clayton Dixon
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4. Tyronne Bell
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5. Melissa Jackson
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6. Ray Ingrey
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7. Michael Jarrett
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Joy Lai
Imaging Specialist