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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.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Robyn Davidson (near Uluru)

1979 (printed 2014)
Rick Smolan

inkjet print (black and white) on paper (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

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

Rick Smolan (age 30 in 1979)

Robyn Davidson (age 29 in 1979)

Related information

The Companion

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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.

Mia Wasikowska as Robyn Davidson at Hamelin Pool, 2013 by Matt Nettheim
Mia Wasikowska as Robyn Davidson at Hamelin Pool, 2013 by Matt Nettheim
Mia Wasikowska as Robyn Davidson at Hamelin Pool, 2013 by Matt Nettheim
Mia Wasikowska as Robyn Davidson at Hamelin Pool, 2013 by Matt Nettheim

Hump days

Magazine article by Jessica Bolton, 2017

Jessica Bolton navigates the parallel tracks documenting Robyn Davidson’s astonishing journey.

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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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