WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.

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28 July 2021 // Ricky Maynard

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Ricky Maynard (1953 - ) was born in Launceston, Tasmania. A self-taught photographer who initially began work in the industry as a darkroom technician at the age of sixteen. In 1981 he undertook a photography course at Hobart Technical College, Tasmania to further his knowledge of chemistry and optics. 

Maynard worked as trainee photographer at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Canberra from 1983, and studied photographic optics at Reid TAFE College, Canberra in 1984.

 

He first established his reputation with the 1993 series No More Than What You See documents Indigenous prisoners in South Australian gaols. Followed up with the 1985 series Moonbird People, an intimate portrayal of the muttonbirding season on Babel, Big Dog and Trefoil Islands in his native Tasmania.

 

He was selected as one of the photographers of the After 200 Years project in 1985 and worked as the Aboriginal Arts Development Officer at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Hobart in 1987. 

Maynard was employed as a contract photographer for AIATSIS from 1989 and first exhibited his photographs in Narragunnawali at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space that same year. In 1990 he was the recipient of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board Grant from the Australia Council, which enabled him to undertake a year's full-time study as part of the degree program in Documentary Photography at the International Centre of Photography, New York. 

Maynard's photographs were included in Balance 1990: Views, Visions, Influences at Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane that same year. In 1992 he established a freelance business, Jollygood Productions Studio, in Adelaide. Maynard participated in Urban Focus: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art from the Urban Areas of Australia at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1994. That same year he was awarded the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography for his black deaths in custody series No More Than What You See (1993), which was later exhibited at Stills Gallery, Sydney. 

Maynard returned to Sydney in 1995 as artist-in-residence at the University of New South Wales. In 1997 he held the solo exhibition Urban Diary at Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Sydney. Maynard's photographs were included in the exhibitions Endangered Species at Horsham Regional Art Gallery, Victoria and Off Shore-On Site (part of the Festival of the Dreaming, Olympic Arts Festival) at the Casula Powerhouse, Sydney that same year. Maynard received the Australian Human Rights Award for photography in 1997. He is a founding member of M.33 Photoagency, Melbourne.

A lifelong student of the history of photography, particularly of the great American social reformers Jacob Riis, Lewis Hines, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. He is interested in the power of the uninflected image – of sheer veracity – as an agent of record and change. Maynard’s images cut through the layers of rhetoric and ideology that inevitably couch black history (particularly Tasmanian history) to present images of experience itself.

 

‘To know the meaning of a culture you must recognise the limits and meaning of your own,’ the artist explains. ‘You can see its facts but not its meaning. We share meaning by living it.’ Maynard’s photographs are, he says, about ‘leaving proof’ – about ‘ … life in passing and in complicated times’

 

Strangely underestimated, perhaps because his work has circulated more in the realm of documentary photography than art, Ricky Maynard has produced some of the most compelling images of contemporary Aboriginal Australia. 

As he wrote in his artist’s statement for the exhibition Returning to Places that Name Us in 2001, ‘ … I wanted a presence and portraits that spoke, and through this process to present an idea, rather than preach messages.’ In this series, Maynard achieves his aim of capturing meanings that no other medium could convey. 

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