Exhibition: Yahna Ganga by Craig Tuffin
Tweed Heads Gallery, Murwillumbah NSW.
until 3 August 2014
Yahna Ganga translates in Bundjalung language as: ‘yahna’ – to sit or sit down, and ‘ganga’ – to hear; to think; to understand. This ambitious project was undertaken by Tuffin in collaboration with local Minjungbal people and its success was recently recognised by the acquisition of two works by the National Gallery of Australia.
Taking photographs of First Australians is not something new. Since the invention of photography early in the 19th century, many people have captured images of Australia’s Indigenous people.
“Stories associated with those photographs have been as diverse as the photographers themselves,” Gallery Director Susi Muddiman said.
“From the challenging anthropological and ethnographic portraits of Norman Tindale and the powerful Australian Aboriginals (1873-74) by J.W.Lindt, to the wonderful photo-documentary work of Ricky Maynard’s Portrait of a Distant Land (2005), we have had the opportunity to see the Aboriginal people of Australia through many different sets of eyes.”
Tuffin’s photographic technique to create this body of work is intimately linked to the past. It is the same technique employed in studios during the earliest years of photography, so this work continues a conversation started long ago.
Tintypes and ambrotypes are peculiar images viewed by light reflected off their metallic surface. Clusters of silver particles gather on sheets of glass and aluminium, their size determined by the intensity of light used to expose the delicate emulsion. Unlike photographs created by more modern methods, they are not duplicates but curious, singular ‘image objects’ on a solid substrate that often take on three dimensions rather than two. Every artifact is a side effect of the materials and time needed to create the photographic event, which is embraced as an intimate part of the work.
As a result, each image is unique and unaltered. Time progresses and things often move in the moments taken to expose each plate. It is here the physical marries with the cultural. The face of Aboriginal Australia isn’t static; rather it is a dynamic entity. It’s one that not only acknowledges a treasured past but also works toward a flourishing future.
“For over 200 years, Aboriginal Australians have faced incredibly challenging circumstances in the struggle to maintain their culture, within the ever-changing face of a multicultural nation,” Tuffin said.
“With that in mind, the photographs in Yahna Ganga have their own implications. Although predominantly portraits, the works on display aren’t about any singular individual or event – rather, they represent the varied faces of a proud and honourable people and the intimate relationship they share with land they occupy.”