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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.

Robyn Davidson (near Uluru), 1979 (printed 2014)

Rick Smolan

inkjet print (black and white) (sheet: 50.3 cm x 61.1 cm, image: 37.0 cm x 56.0 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Robyn Davidson (b. 1950), writer, made a 2700 km journey through central Australia that she described in Tracks, a book that became an international bestseller. Davidson had been expected to study music after leaving school in Brisbane, but instead enjoyed a freespirited period in Sydney before heading to Alice Springs in the mid-1970s. Having learned to handle camels, in 1977 she set off for the coast of Western Australia with four of the beasts and her dog, Diggity. On the way, she encountered many personal and physical challenges, including Diggity’s traumatic death. Rick Smolan, a photographer for National Geographic magazine, turned up intermittently on her way. Davidson submitted an article to National Geographic before leaving for London. There, she boarded in Doris Lessing’s flat while expanding her text into the book-length Tracks, which has been in continuous print since its publication in 1980. Her other books include Ancestors (1989); the collected essays Travelling Light (1993); and Desert Places (1996), an account of the Rabari, nomadic pastoralists of northwest India. Davidson now lives in Australia and speaks and writes about travel, nomadic cultures and sustainability. She has written for the Monthly magazine, Granta, the Bulletin and Griffith Review and wrote the Quarterly Essay for 2006, No Fixed Address: Nomads and the state of the planet. Mia Wasikowska played Davidson in the 2013 film adaptation of Tracks.

Smolan’s photograph of Davidson and Diggity was taken early on their journey in 1977.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2014

Accession number: 2014.8

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Rick Smolan (age 30 in 1979)

Robyn Davidson (age 29 in 1979)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

Writing

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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.