ALETHEIA CASEY (London, UK/Sydney, Australia)
Aletheia is a documentary artist based between London (UK) and Sydney (Australia). Aletheia has published and worked with BBC World, Getty Images, Australian Associated Press, BBC Wales, SBS Television, and PBS Television. She is regularly commissioned by the BBC Magazine and has contributed to The Sunday Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, Pacific Standard magazine, Featureshoot, and Sheshootsfilm magazine. She has been featured in Vogue Italia, Internazionale Magazine, 24 Il Magazine, and Australian Photographer among others.
Aletheia’s work uses historical findings as a background to her stories. She is particularly interested in how memory, history and the way we digest the past influences identity and belonging. Aletheia’s work is of a highly personal nature and she uses her personal attachment to the land to influence her photographic work.
Aletheia has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, Foto8 (London), The Royal Shakespeare Company (London), The National Geographic Society (London), Black Eye gallery (Sydney) and at the Australian Centre for Photography. She was named a winner of The Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Emerging Photographer Award for the UK in 2012 and 2015, a finalist for the National Photographic Portrait Prize and Bronze and Silver winner in the Documentary category of the PX3 Awards in France. Aletheia has twice been named a finalist for the Environmental Photographer of the Year Award.
During 2014 Aletheia was mentored by Magnum Photos as part of the Ideastap and Magnum Photos Photographic Award. She graduated with her Masters of Photojournalism and Documentary Photography through the London College of Communication with Distinction.
This photographic work, titled No Blood Stained the Wattle, uses the violent conflicts and massacres of Tasmania’s colonisation to reflect on the mythical telling and mis-telling of Australian history.
Tasmania was occupied for an estimated 40,000 years by the Tasmanian Aborigines. This exclusive habitation of the land came to a conclusion with the British invasion in 1803 when their societies were irrevocably shattered by the conflicts of the frontiers. These conflicts and the eventual Black War which ensued was a small guerrilla war but of massive proportions for both sides of the conflict with the death per capita for Aboriginals and First Settlers alike higher than in any other war in the history of Australia (even those fought abroad). Within thirty years of British invasion the Tasmanian Indigenous population was almost obliterated.
This photographic series focuses on the little known massacre sites throughout Tasmania to examine the notion of deliberate historical forgetting. The work acknowledges the violence which occurred and uses portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginals whose bloodlines stretch back to the time of the conflict, to reflect on memory, national denial and loss.
The telling of Colonial history throughout Australia has told of the merit and progress of the New Settlers, who were explorers and pioneers in a new country, amid an unfriendly, harsh and hostile landscape. This narrative told of the supposed greatness of the white man in conquering a vast and untamed land and focused on progress and modernity. Throughout this dialogue the voice of Tasmanian Aborigines was silenced and the violence of the frontiers largely ignored. This mythical narrative served to reinforce stereotypes of the Aboriginal people, and was fundamental in creating a nation state which justified the actions of the past. This narrative denied the history of the original occupants of the land, created a distorted perspective of historical events, and was fundamental in creating a falsified collective memory.
Portraits of Indigenous Tasmanians throughout the series show attachment to place and belonging. The portraits and stories of Indigenous Tasmanians comment on the unalterable trajectory of bloodlines and aim to dispel the mythological understanding of ‘The Last Aborigine’. The portraits reflect on the importance of ancestry, culture and human attachment to land.
The images are photographed using a large format camera and film. The physical photographic films are painted with ochre and then scratched with various tools found in Tasmania to uncover diverse truths and perspectives of the past. Some images are over-laid with landscape paintings from the artist John Glover, who painted idyllic scenes of Tasmania at the same point in history, to show the hypocrisy of a nation’s collective memory.
Through the overlaying, scratching and re-working these images reflect the distortion and silencing of the past, and by the constant degradation of the painted ochre on the surface of the film, which is continually changing and evolving, reflect our own evolving understanding of history.
Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
Photographing with film and a large format camera is essential to my practise. For me using traditional photographic techniques deepens the magic of discovery. It heightens the experience of slowing time, of truly stopping to properly see, of being thoughtful, reflective and of being entirely present in the moment. Using film means I don’t rush towards the next moment wanting to see my result immediately.
Film feels like alchemy, it has taken on the earth’s chemistry elements and exists as a product of the earth and chemistry. Using film leaves me space to stop and consider, and to reflect on how I truly want to depict my subject. Using traditional photographic techniques slows time down, and in doing so allows me the space and silence to listen to my instinct and to tell the story that I feel needs telling.