14 February 2022

Exploring the Aftermath of the Old Australian Paths

14 February 2022 - Written by PhMuseum

Questioning the relevance of established Australian institutions are rooted in systematic racism, Erin Lee retraces the Royal Tour from 1954 unpacking ideas of progress through objects and landscapes in her project 'The Crimson Thread'.  

'The Crimson Thread' is a work in progress that examines the omnipresence and continual honouring of colonial history in Australia to better understand the impacts of colonisation and white privilege on Australian society in a contemporary context. The title of this project is taken from a quote by Henry Parkes (1815 – 1896), a colonial politician who described Australia’s connection to the British Motherland as, “the crimson thread of kinship, which defined Australia as a bastion of ‘whiteness’ in the Asian region.” 

As a way of documenting the continuing connection to the British Empire and ongoing acknowledgement of colonial history, the project retraces the Royal Tour made by Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh in 1954. Alongside this documentation, the project interweaves images of objects which represent the notions of ‘progress’ that drove imperialism, and landscapes that reimagine the mindsets of early imperialist explorers in this strange land. 

This body of work questions the continuing existence of the Commonwealth and the Queen as head of state, the perpetuation of these institutions, and their role in the creation of systemic racism which exists universally today. It presents history in an amorphous way that allows viewers to decide for themselves where the work sits between fact and fiction and to reflect on the relevance, or irrelevance of these imperial institutions which still exist. 

Words and pictures by Erin Lee


Erin Lee is a documentary photographer and photobook artist from New Zealand, currently based in Melbourne, Australia. Working and living on Wurundjeri land and wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Owners. Erin’s photography combines environmental portraiture with landscapes and habitats to create work that challenges the traditional format of documentary photography. Follow her on Instagram and PhMuseum.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PhMuseum curators.

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