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Half Light
mervyn bishop, michael riley

Vernon Ah Kee, Tony Albert, Brook Andrew, Richard Bell, Mervyn Bishop, Brenda L Croft, Destiny Deacon, Genevieve Grieves, Dianne Jones, Peter Yanada McKenzie, Ricky Maynard,
r e a, Michael Riley, Darren Siwes, Christian Thompson

Photography by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists has emerged over the past two decades as a definitive expression of contemporary Indigenous life in Australia.

Half Light is the first major survey of the work of Indigenous artists engaging with the photographic medium and the portrait. The exhibition brings together over 140 works by 15 of Australia’s most renowned Indigenous artists. With a critical eye on the history of photographic representations of Indigenous people, these artists take charge of the lens. In the exhibition we see the ‘face’ of Indigenous Australia, at home on the mission pouring tea, dancing up in country or re-enacting and reclaiming the past. 

Mervyn Bishop was the first Aboriginal professional photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald in the 1960s and many of his images feature iconic moments in Australian history and their protagonists, such as Gough Whitlam, Vincent Lingiari and Lionel Rose. Michael Riley's portraits of his Sydney community are sophisticated and glamorous, while Ricky Maynard's series document important community cultural events including the annual mutton birding season in Tasmania and the faces of the Wik elders whose community is synonymous with the political struggle for native title rights. Genevieve Grieves has created filmic portraits that re-construct archival ethnographic portrayals of Aboriginal people in slow moving images. Diane Jones takes well-known paintings of colonial scenes such as Tom Roberts Shearing the Rams and photographer Max Dupain's The Sunbaker. By inserting her image and her family within the frame, Jones reveals an unrecognised history.

Showcasing a range of techniques from classical black and white portraiture to large scale duratrans; from digital imagery to experimental films, the exhibition offers an unprecedented insight that transcends national borders and the harsh reality of the everyday. 

Half Light embraces the fundamental right of people to self-representation, expressed in the works of Indigenous photographers who have upheld – and continue to uphold – this simple truth. The exhibiton is curated by Hetti Perkins and Jonathan Jones, Curators of  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the Art Gallery of NSW. A fully illustrated catalogue with artist interviews accompanies the exhibition.

Supported by



On view:21 November 2008 � 22 February 2009
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney
Telephone:(02) 9225 1744 or recorded information
(02) 9225 1790 Toll Free 1800 679 278
Hours:10am to 5pm, 7 days a week
Art After Hours Wednesday nights until 9pm
Media Information and Interviews:Claire Martin
(02) 9225 1734 or 0414 437 588

IMAGE CREDIT: Mervyn Bishop Lionel Rose at his press conference, 1968/1991 Collection Art Gallery of New South Wales �Mervyn Bishop. Licensed by Viscopy, Australia; Michael Riley Maria Collection Art Gallery New of South Wales �Michael Riley. Licensed by the Michael Riley Foundation and Viscopy, Australia