Eye Contact: Photographing Indigenous Australians
Duke University Press, $23.95 pb, 303 pp
There is a recuperative basis to Jane Lydon’s project that the measured tones of academic writing cannot disguise and that gives this book its energy. Lydon’s subject is the Coranderrk Aboriginal Station near Healesville, which was established in the 1860s in what Lydon describes as ‘consensual circumstances’. In the first decade of operation, the Aboriginal residents at Coranderrk achieved an un-characteristic and impressive degree of autonomy. Under the sympathetic management of John Green, there was, Lydon argues, ‘space for Aboriginal objectives and traditions to co-exist with newer practices’. As an early, initially successful expression of Aboriginal self-determination, Coranderrk has already attracted much scholarly attention, but Lydon takes a new tack, examining the extensive photographic archive created during the Station’s first forty years (it closed in 1924).