My project Civilised came from when I first saw a quote from a book of Captain Cook’s journals and how he saw Aboriginal people for the first time. I started doing some research on the different explorers that came to Australia – the Dutch, the Spanish, Portuguese and French, and how they wrote about seeing Aboriginal people for the first time.
I start with an idea and I start with a blank canvas and I build the images up. Kind of like a painter but I use photographs to do that. I build the images in layers, which means shooting the people separately and all the elements get added in.
My idea for Civilised, and the style of how I presented Civilised, came from going through the National Gallery in London and looking at all the 1600 and 1700 era paintings. They used to keep the people quite sharp and would really dull down and soften the backgrounds in the paintings. What I have done with the series is that I have kept the people sharp and the foreground quite sharp and the background drops off.
I have used the beach scene, because that is where white people and Aboriginal people first saw each other. I wanted this mysterious soft feel as to where these people have come from. I have lost the horizon altogether to kind of give you a soft depth into the image to make it look a little mysterious in the background.
Moffatt Beach, 16 April 2014