Exhibition: ‘Inheritance’ at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 1st May – 6th June 2009

Artists: Bindi Cole, Tamara Dean, Lee Grant, June Indrefjord, Bronek Kozka, Ka-Yin Kwok, Tracey Moffatt, Fiona Morris, Aaron Seeto, Martin Smith and Toni Wilkinson

Installation photographs of the exhibition can be found on the Lee Grant – Photography blog website

Many thankx to the ACP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.



June Indrefjord. 'Piano' from the series Landaas 2005


June Indrefjord
From the series Landaas


Aaron Seeto. 'Oblivion' 2006


Aaron Seeto
From the series Oblivion



Aaron Seeto makes alternate historical positions and experiences visible through an exploration of archives, family photo albums and photographic records. In recent bodies of work Fortress and Oblivion, Seeto has utilised the daguerreotype, one of the earliest and most primitive photographic techniques, to highlight the malleability of narratives within archive records. Not only is the chemical process itself highly toxic and temperamental but the daguerreotype’s mirrored surface means the image appears as both positive and negative, depending on the angle of view. For Seeto, this mutability captures the essence of our experience of history and memory, reflecting how images degrade, how stories are formed and privileged, how knowledge and history are written. …

For his ongoing series Oblivion Seeto sourced details from images of the Cronulla riots – beachside riots around race and territory – of 2005 found on the internet. In reproducing these as daguerrotypes he seeks less to represent the incident than to look at how it was reported, understood and remembered. The instability of the virtual information found online is echoed in the photographic process.

Text from the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019


Tracey Moffatt. 'Useless 1974' 1994


Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
Useless 1974
From the series Scarred for Life



Useless, 1974 is a photo-lithograph by the Australian artist Tracey Moffatt. The work shows a girl stooping down to wash a car, with one hand wiping a headlight with a sponge and the other resting on the bonnet. She looks towards the camera rather than at the car, her face bearing a serious and potentially hurt or angry expression. The caption accompanying the photograph explains that ‘Her father’s nickname for her was “useless”‘. Despite this, it seems that in this picture she is being put to use, and perhaps the car she washes is her father’s. The caption, her expression and the direction of her gaze may suggest that the viewer occupies the position of the girl’s father looking down on and supervising his daughter while she carries out her chore. …

The work’s title is a reference to the cruel nickname given to the girl in the photograph, and the date in the title, 1974, suggests the year according to which the photograph has been styled by Moffatt, who employs actors and constructed scenes to create her photographs. Curator Filippo Maggia has compared Moffatt’s photographic method to that of a film director, stating that she ‘often does not take the photographs herself but directs a sort of bona fide movie set that she organises and controls after having pictured it in her mind again and again, meticulously decomposing and recomposing it’ (Maggia 2006, p.12). As the artist has stated, ‘I often use technicians when I make my pictures. I more or less direct them. I stand back and call the shots.’ (Quoted in Maggia 2006, p.12.)

Moffatt’s photographic series often deal with themes such as race, gender and the politics of identity. Drawing on memories from the artist’s childhood, the Scarred for Life series mimics photo spreads from the American magazine Life, with their explanatory captions and focus on the family environment. The captions’ terse descriptions hint at the traumatic stories behind the images. Moffatt has commented: ‘a person can make a passing comment to you when you are young and this can change you forever. You can be “scarred for life” but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The photographs can be read as both tragic and comic – there is a thin line between both.’ (Quoted in display caption, Tracey Moffatt, Birth Certificate 1994, Tate P78101, accessed 28 August 2015.) Furthermore, Maggia has argued that the Scarred for Life series ‘gives us life as it is, the harshness and aridity of human relations, adolescence with its fears of not being accepted’ (Maggia 2006, p.13).

Louise Hughes
August 2015

Filippo Maggia, Tracey Moffatt: Between Dreams and Reality, exhibition catalogue, Spazio Oberdan, Milan 2006, p. 13, reproduced p. 117.

Extract from Louise Hughes. “Useless, 1974,” on the Tate website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019


Lee Grant. 'The Day Meg Wore a Dress '2007


Lee Grant (Korean-Australian, b. 1973)
The Day Meg Wore a Dress from the series Brothers and Sisters



“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”

From the tight nuclear unit to the multi-generational extended family, from refuges for the homeless to middle class suburbia, Inheritance examines the way our families shape the person we become; for better or for worse.

Taking Tracey Moffatt’s acclaimed series Scarred for Life as a starting point, the exhibition includes the work of eleven Australian artists who explore the modern family through a range of photographic disciplines, including documentary, portraiture and video. Sometimes serious and sometimes satirical, Inheritance is a family album that celebrates the skeletons and the psychodramas alongside the newborns and the nuptials.

Text from the Australian Centre for Photography website [Online] Cited 20/05/2009 no longer available online


Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian / Wathaurung, b. 1975) 'Wathaurung Mob' 2008


Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian / Wathaurung, b. 1975)
Wathaurung Mob
From the series Not really Aboriginal
Pigment print on rag paper
1035 x 1235cm



Our Past Is Our Strength – Culture and Identity

I’ve always been told that l was Aboriginal. I never questioned it because of the colour of my skin or where I lived. My Nan, one of the Stolen Generation, was staunchly proud and strong. She made me feel the same way. My traditional land takes in Ballarat, Geelong and Werribee and extends west past Cressy to Derrinallum. I’m from Victoria and I’ve always known this. All the descendants of traditional Victorian Aboriginal people are now of mixed heritage. I’m not black. I’m not from a remote community. Does that mean I’m not really Aboriginal? Or do Aboriginal people come in all shapes, sizes and colours and live in all areas of Australia, remote and urban?

Bindi Cole Chocka, Wathaurung text from the Culture Victoria website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019


Wathaurung Mob is a group portrait depicting members of Cole’s family sitting in their lounge room, their faces blackened with minstrel paint, and wearing red headbands traditionally worn by indigenous elders. The controversial practice of “blackfacing” refers to the populist minstrel shows of the 19th and 20th centuries in which a white actor put on blackface, then performed a racist caricature.

As we stand before the work, Alessi says he finds it confronting and uncomfortable. “Wathaurung Mob is quite powerful because what stands out are the eyes of each sitter; they look directly at the viewer, so you can’t help but feel challenged by that,” he says.

“There is also something quite uncomfortable about the work because, in some ways, you are being implicated in Andrew Bolt’s view, as white Australians having to own up to the broader history of the relationship between white and indigenous Australia.

“And more broadly it is about coming to grips with what is still a major issue in Australia around reconciliation and the way that we treat indigenous people. In one single frame this photograph captures 200 years of history, and I think it is an area that people like Bindi Cole are really courageous to navigate through because they have been open to criticism by people like Andrew Bolt, which is completely unfounded.”

Extract from Bronwyn Watson. “Facing up to the stereotypes,” on The Australian website November 16, 2013 [Online] Cited 14/02/2019


Fiona Morris. 'Sean and Jade, Wesley Mission' 2006


Fiona Morris
Sean and Jade, Wesley Mission


Tamara Dean. 'Alex and Maeve' 2006


Tamara Dean (Australian, b.1976)
Alex and Maeve



Australian Centre for Photography

This gallery has now closed.

Australian Centre for Photography website

Lee Grant website

Tracey Moffatt on the Rosyln Oxley9 Gallery website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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