Bitter Fruit is a showcase of a collection of early photographs, many previously unpublished, focusing on Indigenous Australians. Presented in a beautiful hardcover, this is a breathtaking document of the Australian experience.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this post, and the book associated with it, may contain images of people who are deceased.
Bitter Fruit: Australian Photographs to 1963 reproduces a selection of photographic materials – most previously unpublished – collected by Michael Graham-Stewart over a 15-year period. It unites orphan images recovered from all over the world, while also allowing little-known episodes in Australia’s fraught history to be told. The book takes as its starting point the year 1963, when the famed Aboriginal photographer Mervyn Bishop undertook a cadetship with the Sydney Morning Herald, and ends with an image of Tasmanian activist Lucy Beeton from the 1860s.
Bitter Fruit focuses on specific information known about the people who took the photographs and, more importantly, those depicted in them, rather than offering a single, overarching narrative that is bound to oversimplify. The authors wanted the book to offer a counterpoint to behemoth surveys of Australian photography that have tended to downplay the interaction between Indigenous Australians and white settlers. Bitter Fruit deliberately eschews critical theoretical analyses and language in the hopes of creating a sourcebook that allows for multiple interpretations and does not claim to offer a ‘last word’.
Graham-Stewart and McWhannell note, ‘We hope that the book will help other non-Aboriginal people to better understand and come to terms with the violent histories in which we are implicated, while also allowing descendants of the Aboriginal people in the images to access their ancestors. Our sincere hope is that more stories will emerge as Australians of all kinds continue to unearth information associated with these images – images that are often upsetting and difficult to look at, but that also represent truths about our past and present.’
About the Authors
specialises in gathering up colonial photographs in order to reconstruct the complex stories that such materials encode. His particular interest is in exploring the ways in which photography operates not only as an instrument of oppression, but also as a means of connecting with people of the past. Michael has published several books on photography, including Surviving the Lens: Photographic Studies of South and East African People, 1870–1920 (2001), Out of Time: Māori & the Photographer (2006), Framing the Native: Constructed Portraits of Indigenous Peoples (2011), and Negative Kept: Māori and the Carte de Visite (2013). A Scot, raised in England, he currently lives between London and Auckland.
is an independent writer and curator from Aotearoa New Zealand. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Museums and Cultural Heritage from the University of Auckland. He has contributed to various publications, including Painting: A Transitive Space (Auckland: ST PAUL St Gallery Three, AUT University, 2017) and Dynamo Hum: Denys Watkins: Selected Paintings 2004–2016 (Auckland: Rim Books, 2017).