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David Maurice Smith
Living in the Shadows
In 1835 the town now known as Wilcannia, New South Wales, Australia was “discovered” by explorer Major Thomas Mitchell. Located far inland on the shores of the Darling river, the name originates from the largely disappeared language of the local Barkindji people and is thought to translate to mean either ‘gap in the bank where the floodwaters escape’ or ‘wild dog’. The polarity of this lost translation has come to reflect the identity of the Barkindji who have called the area home since long before Mitchell arrived.
The Barkindji are a people striving to rewrite a cultural story long ago torn from their grasp through historical wrongs. Simultaneously they face the challenge of adapting to external influences and living in the deep shadow cast by present day institutionalized racism. Despite being traditional keepers of one of the most prosperous countries on the planet they endure near third world conditions. Barkindji men have an average life expectancy of only 35yrs, the rate of domestic violence is 13 times that of other Australian communities and the infant mortality rate is 3 times higher than for non-aboriginal people. A dependency upon government subsidies for survival, overcrowding, violence, alcohol and drug abuse keep the community in a cycle of survival mode.
In plain view of these challenges, my work strives to reflect not only the scars clearly on the surface, but to also to shed light on the fabric of a people that although damaged, dysfunctional and flush with self-harm, carries on. There is rhythm, meaning and intention, despite the shadows cast on the Barlkindji. The fact that even shreds of their culture remain is a testament to the resilience.
David Maurice Smith began his working life supporting disadvantaged individuals as a social worker. It was this experience with those on the fringe of society that shaped a desire to explore personal stories and led him to documentary photography. Originally from Canada David has been based in Sydney since 2009. He joined Australia’s Oculi Collective in 2012.
In 2013 he was named Australian Emerging Documentary Photographer of the Year and his work has been recognized in the International Photography Awards, The American Photography Awards and the Anthrophographica Human Rights Awards.
His work has appeared in The New York Times, Geo, The Guardian, Le Monde, CNN, The Discovery Channel, Monocle Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and The Huffington Post and has been exhibited at the International Centre for Photography, The Museum of the City of New York, The State Library of New South Wales and PHOTOVILLE.