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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

A photographer’s glamorous friends

They went on to become some of Australia’s most influential arts practitioners, but to Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi photographer and film-maker Michael Riley, they were simply his close friends.

1Hetti, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013). 2Joe and Brenda, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013). 3Avril and Miya, from the portfolio "Michael Riley Portraits 1984-1990", 1990 (printed 2013). All Michael Riley. © Michael Riley/Copyright Agency, 2020

Young curators, actors, dancers, artists, academics and lawyers formed this close-knit community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives and activists working in Sydney's inner-west at a formative time. It was a setting that bred ground-breaking exhibitions, art collectives, dance and theatre companies; social justice and land rights campaigns; and Aboriginal medical, legal and housing services through the 1980s and 1990s. Michael Riley took photographic portraits, celebrating his friends as ‘very sophisticated and … very glamorous’, as he noted in a 1989 interview. Riley’s portrait of Gurindji and Mudpurra father and daughter, Joseph and Brenda L Croft, show the intertwining of family and community, activism and arts. Joseph was a cultural advisor to governments and Indigenous rights advocate throughout his life. Brenda is a leading artist, curator and lecturer. Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman Hetti Perkins and Noonuccal woman Avril Quaill became influential curators and arts leaders.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.