Thomas Dick
(1877–1927)

Thomas Dick, black-and white photographs, 1910, installation view, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, documenta 14, photo: Yiannis Hadjiaslanis

Thomas Dick, black-and white photographs, 1910, installation view, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, documenta 14, photo: Yiannis Hadjiaslanis

Thomas Dick, black-and white photographs, 1910, installation view, EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, documenta 14, photo: Yiannis Hadjiaslanis

Installation including twenty black-and white-photographs (1910) and archival materials from the Thomas Dick Collection, Australian Museum, Sydney, installation view, Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Liz Eve

Thomas Dick was an amateur photographer who photographed members of the Birpai community in the early decades of the twentieth century. Dick had a consistency in style, yet his work was not a record of the life of Birpai people, but rather a staged projection of the photographer’s idea of what this particular community’s life was like in the 1800s. A key reference in the presentation is the research undertaken by John Heath, whose relatives were included in Dick’s original photographs. As Heath’s statement illustrates, he inquires how one can look at such colonial historical resources and records differently and more inclusively. The aim is to present a display that covers both the artistic work of Dick but also gives the opportunity to the community to tell their own story, in this case through the work of Heath. It is a reversal of hierarchy where, by empowering the community to comment on the photographs of Dick, the very community becomes the subject rather than the object of the photographic lenses. All in all, it enables Birpai to speak of contemporary realities of the people in Australia.

Posted in Public Exhibition