As P.N.G. approaches its 30th anniversary of independence on Sept. 16, it is more dependent on Australia, its former administrator, than ever. Last June, the two countries signed an historic cooperation agreement, with Australia pledging more than $A1 billion in aid over five years. In August, Blackmore was in Bougainville for the first deployment of some 200 Australian police as part of the program. At the same time, in Port Moresby, fellow Time contributor Stephen Dupont found himself face to face with some of the obstacles the police will confront. He had been invited into the safehouse of a raskol gang to photograph half of its 120 members. Armed with only his Polaroid Land camera, Dupont's directions were simple: "I want you to be as you are."
The images were so arresting for Alasdair Foster, director of Sydney's Australian Centre for Photography, that he decided to base an exhibition around them. "It set me thinking about the fact that we don't talk much about our nearest neighbors," says Foster. While Blackmore's 25 startling yet often poetic images, of scenes from sing sings to AIDS wards, provide a social context for the raskols in "PNG" (the show opens this week), it is Dupont's 30 portraits that are more likely to challenge the way Australians see their neighbors. As well as flaunting hand-made guns and machetes, these criminals proudly wear Rugby League jerseys and Australian-flag bandanas. For gallery goers, it's a disturbing mix of the familiar and the strange.