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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.

Smoky Dawson, Sydney

2004
John Elliott

type C photograph on paper (sheet: 63.0 cm x 33.4 cm, image: 50.5 cm x 33.4 cm)

Herbert 'Smoky' Dawson MBE (1913-2008), entertainer, began his musical career in 1934 with a series of live broadcasts on Melbourne's Radio 3UZ - the first broadcasts of their kind in Australia. After securing his first recording contract in 1941 he served with an Australian Entertainment Unit in Borneo during WW2. Between 1952 and 1962 he and his elocutionist wife Dot gained nationwide fame as the stars of the radio serials The Adventures of Jindywarrabel and The Adventures of Smoky Dawson. Although chiefly known as a singer and songwriter, Smoky also excelled as a yodeller, whip cracker, sharp shooter, knife thrower and stunt rider - he and his horse Flash performed regularly until Flash's death in 1982. In 1978 Smoky was inducted into Australia's Country Music Roll of Renown; he was the inaugural inductee into the ARIA Icons Hall of Fame in 2005. His Smoky Dawson: A Life was published in 1985.

John Elliott, photographer, country music devotee, broadcaster and writer, grew up in Blackall in central western Queensland. Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to amass a collection of portraits of people of rural Australia, he spent much of 2004 travelling across the country photographing people he met and collecting their stories. Combining photographs from his road trips with many in his archive, he was able to select more than 80 images of drovers, stockmen, rodeo riders, fencers, singers and artists that were exhibited as Thousand Mile Stare in 2005. Since then, Elliott has been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to the USA, published the book Where Country Is (2006), exhibited works in Sydney and engaged in film and radio projects. His next film, exhibition and book, Duchess Road, will revisit a group of Aboriginal people he photographed as children in Mt Isa in 1988.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2005
© John Elliott

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

John Elliott (age 53 in 2004)

Smoky Dawson (age 91 in 2004)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

John Elliott (19 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Herb Wharton, Cunnamulla, Qld
Herb Wharton, Cunnamulla, Qld
Herb Wharton, Cunnamulla, Qld
Herb Wharton, Cunnamulla, Qld

Thousand mile stare

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

John Elliott talks about his photographic portrait practice, including his iconic image of Slim Dusty arm-in-arm with Dame Edna Everage.

Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark
Portrait of Professor Graeme Clark

Portraits for Posterity

Previous exhibition, 2006

Drawn from some of the many donations made to the Gallery's collection, the exhibition Portraits for Posterity pays homage both to the remarkable (and varied) group of Australians who are portrayed in the portraits and the generosity of the many donors who have presented them to the Gallery.

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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 past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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