The B. Wongar photographic collection contains hundreds of photos taken in Central and Northern Australia the mid-1960s and the late 1970s by the Australian author, B. Wongar. Wongar, a Serbian émigré fascinated by Aboriginal people, was particularly interested in documenting the harmful effects of uranium mining and nuclear weapons testing in remote parts of South Australia. The photographs consist of portraits of Aboriginal men woman and children, images depicting the poor living conditions of Aboriginal people in town camps and missions, group shots of families, communal and domestic activities such as cooking, hunting and dancing. There are also portraits of important Aboriginal figures such as the activists Geraldine Briggs, Bobby Secretary and the painters Kaapa Mpetyan, Tim Leura and Dinny Nolan.
The bulk of the photographs were taken during firstly in the mid-1960s when Wongar visited numerous localities including Ernabella, Alice Springs, Barrow Creek, Mataranka, Darwin, Gove and Gunnedah in New South Wales. In 1977 Wongar again took to photography whilst engaged as a driver to the Victorian Aboriginal Activist Geraldine Briggs as she toured Northern Territory communities. During what Wongar describes as his 'second expedition’, he photographed Aboriginal people in the communities of Papunya, Maryvale (Titjikala) and Oenpelli (Gunbalanya). The photographs were briefly exhibited at the Parliamentary Library in Canberra in the early 1970s before being withdrawn. While Wongar claimed that the exhibition ‘was banned by government authorities’ who thought they would be politically embarrassing, the Library maintained that the exhibition was cancelled due to poor documentation and the negative portrayal of Aboriginal people often pictured in squalid living conditions. Often shot in an opportunistic fashion, Wongar’s photos reveal the everyday lives of the Aboriginal people on cattle stations, missions and government settlements during a time of considerable social and political change. A small selection of these images are featured in his Totem and Ore (2006).