Tracey Moffatt

Some Lads, 1986
gelatin silver photograph - 5 images
53 x 53 cm - image; 91.2 x 84 cm - frame each
5 from an edition of 30 + 10AP.
each signed and dated ‘TRACEY MOFFATT ‘86’ (lower right), inscribed with title ‘Some Lads’ (lower centre) and numbered ‘5/30’ (lower left)


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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Acquired by the present owner from the above in February 2000

Gael Newton, Helen Ennis & Chris Long, Shades of Light – Photography and Australia 1839-1988, William Collins Pty Ltd, Canberra, 1988, illus. p.160
Gael Newton & Tracey Moffatt, Tracey Moffatt – Fever Pitch, Piper Press, Sydney, 1995, illus. p. 14-15; pp. 25-35

Another edition of this complete series is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. 1 of only 3 full sets of the five images that were sold. The rest of the images were sold individually.

Some Lads was the collective title Moffatt gave to the portraits of the dancers in the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Company (Bangarra)....

Some Lads
 is an attractive and energetic series showing the vitality of the dancers but it also proceeds by a series of visual double meanings playing against the perceived image of urban Aboriginal men.

One dancer with reggae dreadlocks and a T-shirt rolled like a guerrilla bandolier slung around his chest, nevertheless strikes a pose from classical ballet, another flexes muscles like a body builder, yet another pair horse around. For Australian viewers the mock lynching shown in this image has a sinister overtone. One of the horrors of these years was the growing recognition of the numbers of young Aboriginal men in gaols being bashed or committing suicide by hanging themselves. 

Sexuality is often neutralised in dance photography but here, as in the Gulpilil portrait (The Movie Star), the dancers’ bared torsos and loose practice clothes raise the issue of Aboriginal male sexuality and their attractiveness to white women. The subjects are dancers, and they are Aboriginal, but the neutrality of dress and setting extends their image beyond the popular equation of all-natives-dance-in-corroborees. In banishing artefacts, body paint and Aboriginal references from the Some Lads series (the company performs a wide range of works not necessarily with traditional motifs or costume) Moffatt was consciously countering the patterns of the colonial ethnographic photograph. In particular she was aware of the studio portraits of Aborigines made in the 1870s by the German immigrant photographer J.W. Lindt....

In the portraits of the dancers in Some Lads, Moffatt chose a simple paint splattered backdrop and side lighting with a feel of daylight. These features echo the painted backdrops and top lighting of nineteenth century studio portraits as well as the contemporary fashion for severely neutral backdrops made popular by the renowned American portrait photographer Richard Avedon. The Some Lads prints also showed Moffatt’s own technical sophistication. The tones of the prints are rich and sensuous. The backgrounds are quite beautiful with their artfully arranged folds and gathers providing the kinds of dynamic diagonal sweeps which reappear throughout Moffatt’s later works. There is also a quiet statement by the artist in the formal strength of the portraits; a kind of ‘well i can do all that classical stuff'. (Gael Newton, 'Tracey Moffatt: Cover Girl', in Tracey Moffatt – Fever Pitch, Piper Press, Sydney, 1995, pp.14-15)

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Images courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Tracey Moffatt is represented in Australia by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney