"This photograph changes my life."

by Kate C
Publish date
11 November 2010
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Thanks to modern phones and gadgets, many of us carry a camera of some kind everywhere we go and we can document our lives like never before. Today's children feature in hundreds, if not thousands of photographs in the first years of their lives. I think in the flood of images, the importance of any one image has lessened.

Last year, Christine Anu featured in an episode of the SBS series Who Do You Think You Are. She grew up in mainland Queensland but her ancestors were from Saibai Island in the Torres Straight, and the episode takes her back into a personal history she never knew about. At the start, she talked about the lack of a family album: "My family don't have many photographs. We didn't own cameras or had no way to develop the film." In her case, a single photograph has amazing power.

The show's researchers tracked down a photograph of her grandfather in the Donald Thomson Collection that is managed by Museum Victoria. Taken in November 1943, it shows Nadi Anu among other soldiers in Irian Jaya. He died when Anu was ten and she had never seen a photograph of him. When presented with the image of him with his patrol, she was overcome. "The photo has snapped him right in his prime," she said. "This photograph changes my life."

Christine Anu in Who Do You Think You Are A still from series 2 of Who Do You Think You Are, with Christine Anu being shown a photograph of her grandfather as a young man.
Source: Courtesy of SBS

The Donald Thomson Collection has been managed by Museum Victoria since 1973, and since then, there have about 600 requests from communities and researchers to access and use the collection. The episode originally screened on 18 October 2009 but you can now watch it online on the SBS website.

Is there a photograph that has changed your life?

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