Book Review: Inside Tracks by Rick Smolan

Robyn Davidson1

© 2014 Rick Smolan/ Against All Odds Productions II


I felt impressed, enchanted, moved, encouraged, and uplifted by this truly wonderful work.

It is one of these rare books that not only inspire but empower you. That’s on the one hand to do with the stunning images (and the large book format clearly contributes to make them feel so powerful) and on the other hand with Robyn Davidson’s personality. “I’d like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything,” she says. And, she not only says it, she lives up to it.

Robyn Davidson, born 1950, is an Australian writer, who, in 1977, trekked across the Australian outback with four camels and a dog. Her journey was made into a film. The book Inside Tracks is divided into “The Original Trek” and “The Movie”.

I vividly remember reading her account of this trip many years ago. And while I do not recall any particular details, I since then carry images of the Australian outback in my head that instill in me a longing for vast deserts and orange skies.

Robyn Davidson3

© 2014 Rick Smolan/ Against All Odds Productions II


Well, from Rick Smolan’s photographs I learn that the skies over the Australian outback are by no means orange (soil and rock formations often are).

“This book is deceptive,” Rick Smolan writes. “It might appear to be the adventure story of a young woman’s 2700-kilometre solo trek alone across Australia’s outback, but it is, in fact, about a completely different kind of journey … the story of what happens when you discover that the most dangerous terrain is not external but internal.” I do not doubt his words yet the problem is that photographs cannot show the internal world, for photographs, by their very nature, show what can be seen, the external world, that is.

Moreover, although the photographs in this book attempt to document Robyn Davidson’s trek, they actually document the photographer’s journey. “… Rick’s photos are a record of his journey, not of mine,” Robyn states in her postscript.

I thought it particularly interesting that for years Robin “felt uncomfortable looking at Rick’s photos, and seldom did.” Today that is different. “I love them unreservedly now. They may have supplanted true memory, but aren’t they wonderful? And perhaps the journey was never mine, could never have been mine. From the get-go, it belonged to other people, just as an author’s text will have as many versions as there are readers.”

Robyn Davidson

© 2014 Rick Smolan/ Against All Odds Productions II


To face your fears, this is what this book is about. “The whole texture of what I wanted to do was to be alone, to test, to push, to unclog my brain of its extraneous debris, not to be protected, to be stripped of all the social crutches, not to be hampered by any outside interference whatsoever.”

Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton came to mind, in which he mentions a passage in Robyn’s only novel Ancestors that portrays a lover as an unpleasant, sadistic character. (Davidson and Rushdie had a three-year long relationship) When asked whether this man was modelled after Rushdie, Davidson said: “Not as much as in the first version.” She’s really quite a character, this woman!

Rick Smolan visited her numerous times during her journey. On his third visit, they were sitting by the campfire when Robyn suddenly demanded: “When are you going to get here?” whereupon Rick, flabbergasted, said: “Robyn, I’m sitting here right across from you.” She stared at him and said: “No, you’re not. You are worrying about the film from your Taiwan assignment and where you are going to drop your car in two weeks when you leave me, and whether your photo is going to be on the cover of Time next week. You show up out here and then you are everywhere else but here. If you are going to come, then be here with me and not lost in your head the whole time.” I love that!.

Robyn Davidson2

© 2014 Rick Smolan/ Against All Odds Productions II


She wasn’t only with camels and dog on her trek but encountered tourists who “were a constant source of irritation. They would snap pictures, pester her with questions or treat her like an outback sideshow.” And, she encountered Aborigines, Mr Eddie for instance of whom she said: “He was sheer pleasure to be with, exuding all those qualities typical of old Aboriginal people – strength, warmth, self-possesion, wit and a kind of rootedness, a sustantiality that immediately commanded respect.”

I feel enriched for having spent time with Inside Tracks; it is a book I have a deep fondness for.

Inside Tracks
Robyn Davidson’s Solo Journey Across The Outback

by Rick Smolan
Against All Odds Productions, distributed by Sterling Publishers
November 2014, 224 pages

For more info and to purchase the book:

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IGAEL SHEMTOV: The Photo Album 1979-80

Opening Reception February 7, 2015 | 6 – 8pm

The main focus of the exhibition is Shemtov’s series ‘The Photo Album, 1979-80,’ a project that he intended to publish in the early 80s but that is only now being published as a limited edition artist book of two volumes. In this body of work Shemtov looks at lower-middle-class living environments in Israel during that period, depicting both interiors of private homes and exterior public spaces. Photographing in color with a “family album” snapshot aesthetic; he creates images that combine a sense of transience and poverty alongside his subjects’ embrace of kitsch.

Baxter St at CCNY
126 Baxter Street | New York | NY | 10013

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SIRKKA-LIISA KONTTINEN @ L. Parker Stephenson Photographs

10_goldenSIRKKA-LIISA KONTTINEN The Hoppings + Byker Revisited
January 30 – April 4, 2015

The exhibition includes work from two series:The Hoppings, once Great Britain’s largest traveling fair and Byker Revisited, the sequel to a chronicle of a neighborhood transformed by wholesale redevelopment. After arriving in the northeast of England from her native Finland in 1969 (via film school in London) Konttinen, a founding member of the Amber Collective, set about documenting the region with her camera. She has done so for over forty years, earning recognition from UNESCO for her contributions to Great Britain’s national and cultural history.

L. Parker Stephenson Photographs
764 Madison Avenue, Suite 4F | New York | NY | 10065

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H Lee Grassland 1
MARCH 7, 2015 – APRIL 28, 2015

Opening Reception: Saturday March 7 – 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

While living among the cannabis growers of Northern California for a year, photographer H. Lee documented both a clandestine way of life and the process of cultivation in all its stages, culminating in the publication of her 2014 book, Grassland.

Spot Photo Works
6679 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

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David Catá @ Project Space Kleiner Salon

unnamed (1)

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Ida Taavitsainen @ 3331 Arts Chiyoda


Ida Taavitsainen: A Patchwork of Memories
4th to 7th February

3331 Arts Chiyoda in Tokyo, Japan

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Water @ The Center for Fine Art Photography

Snow Mountain © Ray Collins

Snow Mountain © Ray Collins

April 24, 2015 – May 30, 2015

Reception Date: May 1, 2015

All Selected Artists| Geoffrey Agrons, Nicole Allen, Steve Babbitt,
Daniel Beltra, Larry Brenden, Nancy Brown, Nicole Campanello,
Angela Cejda, Bo Cheatham, Patrick Cicalo, Patricia Clark, Mark Cohen, Ray Collins, Ron Cowie, Darcy Dangremond, Serena Franck, Bernd Geh, Brian Goodman, Daniel Grant, Bill Harbin, David Harpe, Matthew Hostelley, John Kane, Laurie Victor Kay, Siobhan Keleher, Michael Kirchoff,
Daivd L’Hoste, Jean Lannen, Kate Levin, Lisa Levine, Tom Lindboe,
Martyn Lucas, Paxton Maroney, Sara Masson, Dana Montlack,
Caterina Pacialeo, Ian Paterson, Maggie Percell, Clayton Price,
Joe Reusser, Shantel Rich, RyutenPaul Rosenblum, Annette Schrieber,
Wil Scott, Monica Schulman, Elizabeth Siegfried, Kim Thompson, Mark Ullom, Stacey Vukelj, Mark Webb, and Rebecca Zimmerman.

The Center for Fine Art Photography | 400 North College Ave. | Fort Collins | CO | 80524

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Contemporary Perspectives in Photography @ Studio 301

Frank Hamrick

Frank Hamrick

“Contemporary Perspectives in Photography” – Adam Forrester, Frank Hamrick, Marcus Journey, Hannah Cooper McCauley, Zach McCauley and Rachel Spencer

Opening Reception: Friday, January 30th from 6-9 p.m

Studio 301
301 North Trenton, Ruston, Louisiana

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Jacques Pugin @ Esther Woerdehoff Gallery

unnamed (2)Jacques Pugin: “Horsemen of the Devil” and “Sacred Site”
February 10 – March 14, 2015

opening: Tuesday, February 10, 2015, from 18h to 21h in the presence of the artist

Esther Woerdehoff Gallery
36 rue Falguière
75015 Paris – France

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FEBRUARY 11 – MARCH 7, 2015


To create her work for Living On A Dollar A Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, a ground-breaking project that is a call to action to eradicate extreme poverty, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Renée C. Byer traveled to ten countries on four continents to illuminate the human faces of poverty. With support from The Forgotten International, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that works to alleviate poverty worldwide, Byer sought out people who live on the brink of survival — on a dollar a day. Her beautiful and searing photographs along with the personal stories Byer gathered, give a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard.

J Street Gallery (2015 J Street, Sacramento)

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