The Crimson Thread

  • Dates
    2020 - Ongoing
  • Author
  • Location Australia, Australia

The Crimson Thread is an ongoing photographic project that investigates the ubiquitous presence of Australia's colonial history and attempts to better understand the impacts of colonisation and white privilege on contemporary Australian society. Using speculative documentary photography, the work encourages viewers to question official histories and to consider how strongly our past still exists in the present. The title of the project is taken from a quote by Sir Henry Parkes, a British-born Australian 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.”

The work to date has been created by retracing part of the Royal Tour of Australia made by Queen Elizabeth II & the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954. To document what the contemporary settler society of Australia looks like today, our ongoing connection to the British monarchy and to highlight how the incessant honouring of colonial history generates and sustains white privilege.

Alongside the documentary approach, the project combines four visual pillars. Australian landscapes by which history is reimagined through the eyes of British invaders descending on this strange new land. A series of objects representing the ideas of 'progress' that drove imperialism. Staged portraits to each depict a paradigm introduced by colonialism that persists in society today. The work is produced on 120mm film and these approaches are intertwined with archival material related to the 1954 Royal Tour of Australia and key political standpoints from throughout the 20th century, such as the White Australia immigration policies.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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The unique geographical formations of Hanging Rock are considered sacred to First Nations Australian Peoples. The site is located near the ancestral boundary of three distinct Aboriginal language groups, the Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Wurundjeri Peoples who inhabited the area prior to British descent.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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Swans were introduced to Australia by colonists. Black swans are nomadic and have erratic migration patterns depending on climatic conditions, however, have survived in high numbers in Australia.

© Erin Lee - Queen Elizabeth on her Royal Tour in 1954.
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Queen Elizabeth on her Royal Tour in 1954.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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Promotion of the church and the inception of missions were part of the imperial administration throughout Australia’s colonies.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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Horses gave British invaders a strong advantage over Indigenous Peoples in the violent clashes and by facilitating rapid movement and ability to spread across the continent.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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Sovereign Hill, open-air museum dedicated to glorifying settler colonial Australia and preserving the gold rush history of the area. The park is situated on 20 hectares of Wadawurrung land.

© Erin Lee - The tenets of Christianity were used to justify many actions of the colonisers.
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The tenets of Christianity were used to justify many actions of the colonisers.

© Erin Lee - Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Ballarat, Victoria. The city of Ballarat is situated on Wadawurrung country.
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Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Ballarat, Victoria. The city of Ballarat is situated on Wadawurrung country.

© Erin Lee - White Australia: The Great National Policy song. Music by W. E. Naunton, words by the composer and H. J. W. Gyles.
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White Australia: The Great National Policy song. Music by W. E. Naunton, words by the composer and H. J. W. Gyles.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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Gazing upon La Trobe’s cottage, the original home of the state of Victoria’s first Lieutenant-Governor, Charles Joseph La Trobe. The cottage is situated on Bunurong Indigenous country.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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Swans were introduced to Australia by colonialists. White swans have not survived in the wild and can now only be seen living in captivity.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
i

Sovereign Hill, open-air museum dedicated to glorifying settler colonial Australia and preserving the gold rush history of the area. The park is situated on 20 hectares of Wadawurrung land.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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The constellation of the Southern Cross helped colonial explorers navigate the Southern Hemisphere seas yet in modern times it has become a symbol of colonial patriotism and a popular tattoo in Australia.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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The Victorian flag flies outside a home in Ballarat, Victoria. The Victorian flag is a modified version of the Australian flag which features the imperial crown of St Edward above the Southern Cross.

© Erin Lee - Image from the The Crimson Thread photography project
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Rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859 by English colonists for hunting and within 50 years had spread across the entire continent with devastating implications for Australia’s indigenous flora and fauna.

© Erin Lee - Details of the Queen's coronation gown.
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Details of the Queen's coronation gown.

© Erin Lee - Red Cliffs, Victoria. The Traditional Custodians of this area are the First Peoples of Latji Latji and Ngintait.
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Red Cliffs, Victoria. The Traditional Custodians of this area are the First Peoples of Latji Latji and Ngintait.

© Erin Lee - The act of hope and triumph despite the negation of what has been lost.
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The act of hope and triumph despite the negation of what has been lost.

© Erin Lee - Red spray paint marked body of a wallaby left on the roadside.
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Red spray paint marked body of a wallaby left on the roadside.

© Erin Lee - The Captain Cook monument in St. Kilda doused in red paint as part of anti-Australia Day protests in January 2022.
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The Captain Cook monument in St. Kilda doused in red paint as part of anti-Australia Day protests in January 2022.

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