UQ Anthropology Museum Director awarded by Royal Anthropological Institute

8 September 2022

The University of Queensland Anthropology Museum Director Michael Aird is hoping to make a trip to London in December to accept the 2022 Photographic Studies Award from the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

Michael Aird

This award is given annually to someone who has made a lasting and significant contribution to the field of anthropology and photography.

The RAI committee agreed that Michael’s dedicated historical as well as contemporary work on the excavation of the Aboriginal archive in Australia has been formative in the field.

“The committee in particular commends Aird’s combined commitment to photographic practice, exhibition, and conceptual framing, foregrounding Indigenous histories and experiences,” said Chair of the RAI Photography Committee, Professor Haidy Geismar.

Aird, who is an ARC Research Fellow, is acknowledged as a leading scholar-practitioner focused on Aboriginal Indigenous image worlds.

He has worked in the area of Aboriginal arts and cultural heritage since 1985, maintaining an interest in documenting aspects of urban Aboriginal history and culture. He has curated over 30 exhibitions including: "Portraits of Our Elders” (1993) a Queensland Museum travelling exhibition; "Transforming Tindale" (2012) at the State Library of Queensland; and "Captured: Early Brisbane Photographers and Their Aboriginal Subjects" (2014) at the Museum of Brisbane.

In 1996, Aird established Keeaira Press, an independent publishing house, producing over 35 books.

Photography has been central to his career, both as a researcher of Aboriginal photographs and as a photographer. His work is held in numerous collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, the Queensland State Library, the Queensland Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.

Caption: An image that relates to Aird's recent published work:
 “William” “King Johnny” “King Fred” “King Sandy”
“Queensland Blacks – Moreton Bay District”
William, Johnny, Fred and Kirwallie Sandy, Deception Bay, c.1896
Photographer Thomas Bancroft
Courtesy Bancroft family

He has published numerous books and articles focused on his extensive historical and contemporary research into photography in Australia. His 2020 article From illustration to evidence: historical photographs and Aboriginal native title claims in south-east Queensland, Australia, co-authored with Joanna Sassoon and David Trigger, was awarded the Mander Jones Award by the Australian Society of Archivists.

If his London trip goes ahead, Michael plans to do some more photographic research while in the United Kingdom.