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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 (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 lifestyle. In the mid-1970s she went to Alice Springs. There, she trained four camels (Dookie, Bub, Zeleika and Goliath) for a trek through the desert to Shark Bay in Western Australia. She set off from Alice Springs and reached the end of her journey – over 2700 kilometres away – nine months later. On the way, she had to shoot her beloved dog Diggity. Intermittently, she was joined by photographer Rick Smolan, who found her fascinating. During her trek he drove out to meet her three times, taking photographs and eventually irritating her. His pictures of the journey were published in National Geographic in 1978, along with an article written by Davidson. On the strength of the popularity of the article, she wrote an account of her journey, Tracks (1980), which won multiple awards, was translated into twenty languages, and made into a film released in 2013. In Tracks, Davidson writes: '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?'

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 28 in 1977)

Robyn Davidson (age 27 in 1977)

Related portraits

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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