Indigenous photographer Trent White wants more First Nations representation in his industry


Darumbal and Yiman man Trent White has been blown away by the popularity of his First Nations photography, which has sparked conversations through thousands of shares on social media.

The central Queenslander — who was featured on the ABC last August — photographs Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their traditional paint styles to preserve culture and to tell a story.

“I’ve had a few donations … people’s generosity is really touching and amazing,” he said.

“There was this old couple down in Victoria and they saw my story, and the husband — he was a photographer and he got dementia — but he heard my story on ABC.

The Kulgoodah Dancers from Woorabinda in central Queensland.(

Supplied: Trent White Photography


Not too long after that story aired, a professional kit with a DSLR, three lenses and a stand arrived on Mr White’s doorstep.

“It’s just such a big thing for people that I don’t even know to … be so generous in giving that amount of equipment without even meeting me,” he said.

Paying it forward

Last week, Mr White decided to donate that valuable equipment to someone in greater need than himself — Kaliyah Williams, a Darumbal, Yiman and Gungalu teenager and aspiring photographer.

The gift came after her father, Mr White’s cousin, put the pair in touch.

“When Kaliyah’s dad rang me and told me her story … I just knew it was right to give her that equipment,” Mr White said.

“Her father told me she was going through a bit of a rough patch — as most teenagers her age do — school and life pressures and things like that.

“It felt really comforting to me, that I could make some sort of contribution to her life.”

A man leans over a teenage girl's shoulder, while she concentrates on looking into a camera she's holding
Kaliyah Williams says taking photos helps her cope with anxiety.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


A surprise

So the photographer organised a mentoring session with the 14-year-old next to the Fitzroy-Toonooba River.

“I was nervous and excited to give her that gear and to help start her journey in photography,” Mr White said.

For Kaliyah, the gift of the photography gear was a huge, and very welcome, surprise.

“It’s such big equipment and I’ve never had that before,” she said.

A man and a teenage girl hugging, both holding cameras, grass and river in background.
Trent White gave the gift of camera equipment to teenage photographer Kaliyah Williams.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


Aunty Venita Mann nee Fisher, close up, black and white, dots and lines painted on her face.
Aunty Venita Mann nee Fisher, grew up in Barambah (Cherbourg) Aboriginal mission.(

Supplied: Trent White Photography


The budding photographer said that Mr White’s work had inspired her.

“It’s important to us and what we do and how we used to live and how we live now.”

‘Mob shooting mob’

Since swapping mining for photography in 2010, Mr White has captured Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from clans across the country, including Lions AFLW players in their Indigenous Round guernsey.

Dakota Davidson, Ally Anderson and Courtney Hodder in colourful guernsey's, long grass, painted up, holding poses.
Lions AFLW players Dakota Davidson, Ally Anderson and Courtney Hodder in their team’s Indigenous round guernsey. (

Supplied: Trent White Photography


But, he said, much more could be done to ensure Indigenous photographers were the ones taking up space in the industry, especially during First Nations events such as NAIDOC week.

“I’d love to see more Indigenous photographers being hired or used to capture our mob,” he said.

“We can start filling those gaps and giving the opportunity to Indigenous photographers to shoot Indigenous themes … it’s about opportunity and about working hard and that’s what I’m encouraging as well.

“We’ve got a little saying among the Indigenous photographers around Australia that we’d like to see ‘mob shooting mob’.”


Empowering communities

With the support of a well-known camera brand, Mr White plans to travel to different communities, donate more cameras and run workshops for people of all ages.

“I’d love to start in Woorabinda first and then work my way around the state [then], hopefully, around Australia,” he said.

“I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead, but I’m prepared to put in some big yards there [to] really encourage young Indigenous photographers to get out there and take up photography or videography.

An Indigenous woman in a grass skirt, holding her son. Both wear traditional paint
Kabi Kabi and Mununjali woman Jacquie Sandy, and her son Jarli Lyndon Yanyarin.(

Supplied: Trent White Photography


Mr White said the support of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians had touched his heart.

“In photography nothing’s really cheap,” he said.

Mr White said the ABC listener’s donation “just blew me away”.

Kaliyah had a message for other young Indigenous photographers.

“Follow your dreams and do what you can,” she said.

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