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My Land, My Story: Wiradjuri and Gamilaraay photographer Marley Morgan on taking control of First Nations representation

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARLEY MORGAN
WORDS BY FASHION JOURNAL

“My work aims to take control of how mob are represented through our own lens. Our stories have travelled through time for countless generations and it’s time we take control of our narrative and stop being pigeon-holed.”

Fashion Journal is proud to continue an ongoing partnership with First Nations Fashion and Design aimed at highlighting and amplifying First Nations voices, talent, culture and stories across the industry. Fashion Journal acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first Australians and traditional custodians of the lands on which we live, learn and work. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. 

This month, Fashion Journal is excited to announce a new content series aimed at highlighting and amplifying First Nations voices within our community. The series, My Land, My Story, will spotlight the lives, careers and achievements of First Nations Australians while unpacking their individual connection to Country. First up is Marley Morgan, a Wiradjuri and Gamilaraay photographer who’s currently based on Gumbaynggirr Country.


For more content like this, browse through our Life section.


Marley has fast made a name for herself thanks to her evocative portraits of First Nations people, with a particular focus on women, motherhood and culture. Through her work, she “takes control of how mob are represented through our own lens”, and her photos serve as a reminder of the resilience and strength of First Nations people. Below, she shares her story.

Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us where you are from.

My name is Marley Morgan and I am a photographer formerly known as Barefoot Wandering. I am a proud Wiradjuri and Gamilaraay woman who grew up on Wiradjuri and Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay country and I am currently based on Gumbaynggirr Country, Coffs Harbour.

What do you do for a living?

I am a proud First Nations photographer. My work highlights the beauty of First Nations families with a heavy focus on Aboriginal women, fashion, motherhood and culture. My aim is to instil confidence and pride in my subjects while creating an inclusive space in the larger landscape of mainstream media

Can you describe your career journey, and how you came to be where you are today?

I purchased my first DSLR camera after the birth of my first son in 2016. I wanted to capture all his milestones and my journey into motherhood. My passion for photography grew. I began photographing nature and wildlife which then went on to photographing portraiture. I was most interested in capturing the beauty of my culture. After two years of teaching myself photography and finding my style, I decided I wanted to turn my hobby into a career.

What was it like starting out as a First Nations person in your industry?

It was a struggle and at times still is to this day. I have experienced racism and have not been given the same opportunities as my non-Indigenous photography peers. There have been times I have felt tokenistic or not taken seriously because of my cultural heritage. I am so lucky that I now am part of an Indigenous collective of photographers called Blak Lens that helps me feel supported during my journey.

How has your First Nations heritage shaped who you are today?

I’ve never known any different so that’s a tough question for me. I’m fortunate enough to have the biggest mob of strong Aboriginal family [members] as role models to raise me to always know who I am and where I come from. They’ve taught me to always respect, learn and seek out culture, not just from my home Country, but from all mob. My recent re-branding from Barefoot Wandering Photography to Marley Morgan Photography was an intentional consideration to honour my family name and have that at the forefront of my business.

What does Country mean to you?

I’ve always known Country to be kin. Country is family and needs to be treated as such. The constant environmental disasters are a direct result of not listening to and ignoring the needs of Country. It won’t stop until we realise that Country provides and cares for us, so we must be reciprocal in our approach to caring for Country.

What does First Nations representation in the industry mean to you?

I feel there has been a misconception of representation in the fashion industry and that putting Blak faces at the front of campaigns is enough. What true representation in the industry means is equity of pay and opportunity, cultural safety consideration in all projects, hiring Blak creatives based on our merit all calendar year, not just the times when Aboriginal people or issues are highlighted in the media. Representation means I can see people that look like me shown in a positive light in [the] media as the norm.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I have received is you cannot pour from an empty cup. It is okay to rest when I need to.

What do you think the Australian media landscape can learn from First Nations leadership and practice?

So much. Australian media doesn’t have the best track record of showcasing First Nations leadership and practice. My work aims to take control of how mob are represented through our own lens. Our stories have travelled through time for countless generations and it’s time we take control of our narrative and stop being pigeon-holed.

I truly hope more First Nations leaders who have been advocating for years are heard and understood by a wider audience as a result of this year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up’.

What are your goals for the future?

My goals are to venture into the world of fashion and editorial photography and continue showcasing the beauty of diversity and inclusion, and achieving true representation in the industry for all the deadly creatives in the industry.

You can find out more about Marley and her services here.

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