• December 30, 2013

Pictures We Love: Australian Dreamland

Alexa Keefe

National Geographic’s Proof blog invited the photography and design teams of National Geographic magazine to look back through the hundreds of photographs from the over 75 stories published in 2013 and select one photo that spoke to their heart, intrigued them, inspired awe, made them smile—in short, to choose their favorite photo from this past year. Over the next several days we’ll bring you a round-up of the breathtaking, the touching, the extraordinary, the imperfect, and the beautiful.

Savoring the sun and sea, Mawunmula Garawirrtja, a Yolngu Aboriginal girl, floats in a tide pool near the community of Bawaka on the Arnhem Land coast of northern Australia.
First Australians, June 2013
Photograph by Amy Toensing

Zahira Khan, Photo Coordinator

Buoyed by a sense of serenity and infinite weightlessness—seeing this young girl quietly floating along, both wild and limitlessly graceful, I’m immersed in this photograph’s ethereal qualities, which transport me to this moment of transient beauty.

Jake Rutherford, Photo Coordinator

I envy this girl. I want to wade just like Mawunmula and feel the sun shining through my closed eyelids. The feeling of buoyant bobbing almost overtakes me, even as I recline in my cubicle in the distant adjacent hemisphere. The composition is simple and the content straightforward, yet it is visually visceral in the way that it accesses my senses. It feels like a flood.

For me, this image has a character of equality. It doesn’t matter if Mawunmula is poor and I am among the world’s wealthiest, nor does it matter if she has cotton undergarments and I have a pricey department store swimsuit. We are the same for a moment. We are alike, as we actually are. In front of the lens, particularly in this image, all things are treated as equals.

Aboriginals in touch with the land see desert oaks and imagine the drinking water in the trees’ cavities. They see a full moon above Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and find light for a nocturnal event.
First Australians, June 2013
Photograph by Amy Toensing
David Whitmore, Design Director

I can see Edward Steichen’s pond in moonlight and Maurice Sendak’s enchanted bedroom of wild things in this nocturnal scene. The gift of fire and water, smudged umbers and coal black embers against cool gray green grass dissolving into lavender sky.

The Dreamtime. The time of ancients, alive in that space, not quite night, not quite day.

With this image, Amy Toensing captures what she set out to find in this story: A spirit presence in the land and our closer understanding of the Aboriginals’ sustained state of awakening to that spirit.

View these photographs and more in our interactive Year in Review.

There are 15 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Pam Palmer
    January 13, 2014

    I wonder what the little girl is dreaming about…

  2. Ivy
    January 8, 2014

    that girl looks so peaceful!! I envy her too….but she is probably just taking a break from a stressful day, trying to forget her problems for a short moment before returning to…….*drumroll*…….reality

  3. Cathy
    January 6, 2014

    An understated beauty.

  4. Sonu
    January 6, 2014

    simplicity at it’s best…money can only give us material happiness but true happiness can only be achieved by uniting with our nature

  5. Tommy Westerberg
    January 5, 2014

    A child of the land. Wonderfull

  6. Vilas Mandlik
    January 4, 2014

    Beautiful pictures

  7. Libuse young
    December 31, 2013

    Spiritual revelation in both pictures. the trees,the buoyancy,serenity lends itself within the moment……

  8. Judith
    December 31, 2013

    You can almost hear the slight rustle of the breeze through the grass

  9. Ron Mosteller
    December 31, 2013

    I the felling of being part of the land

  10. Ellie
    December 30, 2013


  11. Angela
    December 30, 2013

    Exquisite! A feeling and sense of peace.

  12. Michael
    December 30, 2013


  13. George
    December 30, 2013

    I think ‘nice’ was perfectly adequate lol

  14. rene
    December 30, 2013


  15. Blanca Pinon
    December 30, 2013

    Truly primal beauty … brings out the best in us …

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