Date of Award

Summer 6-3-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Advisor

Zoé Samudzi

Second Advisor

Jocelyne Prince

Third Advisor

Clement Valla


Garden Etiquette is an ongoing project concerned with landscape photography, environmental conservation, and the way they have both served the settler colonialist agenda. I focus specifically on the conservation ideologies shaped in New South Wales (NSW) Australia and New England, United States of America (USA) in the late nineteenth century and the settler visualities that underwrote them. Both countries’ histories were marked by photography and conservation’s common function of mythologising land as empty space—to be invaded, extracted and occupied, and wilderness—to be territorialized and protected, albeit, in distinct ways.

With British, German and Polish settler ancestry, born and raised on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Land / Canberra, I play a role in such structural violences—something that has compelled me to try to locate myself, my upbringing and the tools I use in my photographic work. For this project I visited and made images at conservation sites on Dharawal Land / NSW and Narragansett, Nipmuc, Wampanoag and Pokanoket Lands / Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I also engaged with material related to the 1989 Royal National Park (formerly just “National Park”) proclamation on Dharawal Land held by the NSW State Archives. I am interested in how imaging these conservation sites, and looking at related archival material, might render visible or invisible colonial logics: how the social, racial, gendered, political and scientific stratifications of land—that afforded settlers a sense of romantic communion with nature and sense of belonging—were obscured.

Drawing connections between analogue photographic processes, hot glass and lenses, 3D scanning, and modeling has allowed me to extend on this and helped me to discursively locate Enlightenment aesthetics and politics within traditional photographic practices and contemporary imaging technologies. Doing so has served to de-familiarise myself with traditional photographic codes. Less so to find a solution or way around certain problematics in photographic and conservation practices, but to locate my own relations to the constitutive violences that colonialism attempts to veil as “common,” “ordinary,” or “inevitable,” and asserts through ideological constructions such as “civility” and “etiquette.” This thesis posits that a critical approach to photography—in practice, theory and as metaphor—has been of help to me in this undertaking.


View exhibition online: Kai Wasikowski, Garden Etiquette



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