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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 (Hamelin Pool, Indian Ocean, Western Australia), 1977 (printed 2014)

Rick Smolan

inkjet print on paper (sheet: 50.3 cm x 61.1 cm, image: 37.3 cm x 56.0 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Robyn Davidson (b. 1950), writer, attended a Brisbane boarding school before moving to Sydney, where she lived a loosely Bohemian life and picked up leftist ideas. In the mid-1970s she went to Alice Springs. There, she trained camels for a trek through the desert to Western Australia. She set off from Alice Springs and reached the end of her journey - 1700 miles away - nine months later. On the way, she had to shoot her beloved dog Diggity. Intermittently, she was joined by photographer Rick Smolan, whose pictures of the journey were published in National Geographic in 1978. Two years later, on the strength of the popularity of the National Geographic article, Davidson wrote an account of her journey called Tracks (1980). At that time, she was living with Doris Lessing. Davidson now lives in Australia and writes about travel, other cultures and sustainability. She is a contributor to The Monthly magazine and wrote the Quarterly Essay for 2006. Of her journey, she says ‘the question I’m most commonly asked is “Why?” A more pertinent question might be, why is it that more people don’t attempt to escape the limitations imposed upon them?’ Davidson’s ‘outer and inner’ journeys are the subject of the recently-released film Tracks, produced by Emile Sherman and starring Mia Wasikowska.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2014

Accession number: 2014.9

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Rick Smolan (age 28 in 1977)

Robyn Davidson (age 27 in 1977)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

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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 both past and present.

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