Image: James Henry, [Aunty Marlene], from the series [Kulin Generations], 2022. Commissioned by Photo Australia for PHOTO 2022 International Festival of Photography. Courtesy the artist.

Image: James Henry, Aunty Marlene, from the series Kulin Generations, 2022. Commissioned by Photo Australia for PHOTO 2022 International Festival of Photography. Courtesy the artist.

Q&A with James Henry


James Henry is a Melbourne-based artist who has been working as a photographer since 2010. For PHOTO 2022, James has been commissioned by Photo Australia to create the project Kulin Generations which presents portraits of five Elders from the Kulin Nations with one or more of their descendants.

Hello James, please start by telling us something about yourself that is not in your bio.

I am primarily a commercial photographer, but through my artistic practice, I like to capture a variety of subject matters. I am usually asked to take photos of Aboriginal subject matter because of my Aboriginal heritage and connection to community and find that it is an honour and a privilege to do so in a community I am not originally from.

Can you explain your artistic processes to us, such as how you research, your methods or any rituals? Has this changed over time?

The more experience I have shooting, I am better able to find ways to relate to who I am shooting and provide an environment that is not only aesthetically pleasing but natural to the subjects involved. I feel more and more that the success of the images is reliant on the subject taking ownership of the image as an honest but flattering representation of themselves. It can be hard to find that balance and still be an engaging image that says something that might not be said otherwise. The more work I do, the more trust I earn from curators and people sitting for my photographs.

As an artist/creative, where do you draw inspiration for your work from?

I perhaps draw most of my influence from social and political commentary. I am quite heterodox in my opinions about culture and like to find ways things can be said that otherwise are not spoken in a way it can be comfortably received by the orthodoxy.

James Henry, Circus Oz. Courtesy the artist.

Why is photography an important artform/practice to engage with, both personally and for others?

There is an honesty to photography in what is captured. Having said that, within a second there can be a variety of frames and angles that can tell very different stories. The photographer then has to choose which images best tells the story they are hoping to tell. Photography these days is very accessible as opposed to painting and sculpture which can be expensive and require specialised training to master. Photography also takes time to master, but the entry-level is open to all and in that, you have a lot more perspectives on the world on offer than other artforms can provide.

James Henry on location. Photo by Anne Harkin. Courtesy the artist.

What led you to photography rather than any other artforms?

I believe it was the practice of it. I found that I took a little more time in taking happy snaps with my disposable cameras than my peers at the same time and place. Doing photography at high school I was very drawn to the technicality of the art and what was required to create a quality image. The ability for it to share my experience and perspectives quickly and easily on things. I also enjoy working on computers, so having an art form that is half in the real world and half in the computer for me is a nice balance.

What does the PHOTO 2022 theme ‘Being Human’ mean to you?

People get a little too wrapped up in the differences between us all. I think a reminder now and then that we are all human can serve to unite us or at least give a greater understanding of people outside our own community, race and political affiliation.

When you are not working what do you enjoy doing most?

I love playing sports. Baseball in particular. With sport, you are put in situations where you must be your absolute best and having a team of people and supports hoping for you to achieve that is a rare and heightened experience of life.

James Henry. Courtesy the artist.

James Henry, in a crowded outdoor Festival setting during a photography documentation gig. Courtesy the artist.

James Henry. Captured mid-game at Fitzroy Baseball Club. Courtesy the artist.

James Henry. Captured mid-game at Fitzroy Baseball Club. Courtesy the artist.

Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March