The questions below were written by myself in order to facilitate a conversation at the launch of Judith Crispin’s The Lumen Seed book at the Atkins Photo Lab gallery in Adelaide on Friday, 17th March 2017. The questions were structured around The Lumen Seed book, and they were designed to give some background to the construction of the text for the audience. They place the emphasis on Judith’s photography rather than her poetry, given that the space for the launch at the Atkins Photo Lab is a photography gallery. The audience pretty much took over once we got the conversation rolling.
1. Since few people in the audience would have been to either the Tanami Desert or Lajamanu we will start the conversation here. Lajamanu is 4000 kilometres from Sydney and around 800 kilometres north west of Alice Springs. It’s remote and difficult to get to. So the first question is why Lajamanu Judith?
2. Remote indigenous communities have a negative profile in the mainstream media, and those on the conservative side of politics want to close them down and shift people to the bigger towns. This is currently happening in Western Australia with support from the Federal Government which has withdrawn funds for essential services including the supply of power, water and management of infrastructure.
When I was at Lajamanu I was surprised at how well the Warlpiri community was functioning. This indicated that more is going on here than Tony Abbott’s lifestyle choice. From my brief stay I gained the impression that the life of the community was premised on a synthesis of tradition and modernity.
Is that impression right? If so, can you tell us how the Warlpiri are succeeding and what they are trying to do? Can you answer in terms of the Warlpiri’s conception of their relationship to Australian modernity.
3. What do you think is the biggest threat to the Warlpiri’s future at Lajamanu? Is it the impact of climate change on the Tanami in the form of more droughts and floods? Or would it be the failure of the younger generation to continue to walk the difficult line between tradition and modernity?
My experience when I was at Lajamanu in 2016 was one of being a cultural tourist. I was very uncomfortable in that role, and I wasn’t sure how to step beyond being a cultural tourist to photograph what I was seeing.
4. So Judith, was that your initial experience as a photographer at Lajamanu? When did you start moving away from being a cultural tourist to begin to formulate the ideas behind the Lumen Seed project?
5. Why did you decide to incorporate the broader historical context around the Warlpiri and Central Australia into your photographic project?
Most photography books adopt a similar format: a series of photos in the form of a visual narrative with a brief, written introduction, usually written by someone other than the photographer. The emphasis is on the images. The Lumen Seed, in contrast, is much more multilayered and intertextual.
6. Can you tell us why you took this approach to a photography book? Continue Reading…