In this scholarly yet accessible work, Lydon explores the role of photography in bearing witness to the plight of Aboriginal people due to white settlement, and in documenting the emerging campaigns for Indigenous rights that continue until today. From neck-chained prisoners force-marched across treacherous distances at the turn of the 19th century to the Freedom Riders and Tent Embassy demonstrators many decades later, Lydon documents and contextualises historical images of black subjugation and resistance, while interrogating white privilege and exploring both black and white attempts to redress the balance. By clever interweaving of illustration, historical documentation and narrative, Lydon lucidly uncovers the consequences of white settlement for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and re-examines the development of race relations in this country.
Lydon’s great talent lies in her ability to tackle a difficult and complex subject with insight, clarity and sensitivity. She brings little known or forgotten fragments of history back to light: that neck-chaining of Aboriginal prisoners was in use until 1945; that the only protest march in Australia against the persecution of Jews in Germany in 1938 was by Aboriginal activists. Lydon’s research is both detailed and original, and the many images reproduced in the book forcefully show us the power of photographs to bear witness, excite empathy and develop understanding in a diverse society, while acknowledging the risk they run of becoming complicit with injustice and the appropriation of another’s pain. In this considered and intelligent melding of narrative and illustration, Lydon has created an eloquent, original and thought-provoking reconsideration of our recent and often problematic history.