The camera that Rick brings along when he meets up with Robyn Davidson is an important symbol of the tension between Davidson’s desire to be independent and her need to rely on connections with others. Rick and his photography skills are a key factor in getting Davidson her deal with National Geographic, which provides financial support for the trip and forces her to keep going when she might otherwise have stopped. While Davidson is often grateful for this source of support, she also resents Rick’s presence at times, feeling that he and his incessant need to take pictures interfere with the solitude she had hoped for. Additionally, she feels that the pictures from Rick’s camera end up being shallow, misleading versions of reality, which ultimately misrepresent her (and others, including the Aboriginal people) to the outside world. Still, the photographs help Davidson gain the notoriety that she needs to share the true meaning of her trip with other people. Davidson never quite resolves this tension, wondering throughout if it’s wrong to want to rely on herself and how to cope with the necessity of involving other people in the trek. The lines between individuality and interconnection blur over the course of the book, and the camera often serves as a representation of this blurring: it shares Davidson’s experience with other people while simultaneously getting in the way of her wish to represent that experience accurately.
The Camera Quotes in Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback
I began right then and there to split into two over Rick. On the one hand I saw him as a blood-sucking little creep who had inveigled his way into my life by being nice and by tempting me with material things. On the other hand I was confronted with a very warm, gentle human being who genuinely wanted to help me and who was excited by the prospect of an adventure, who wanted to do a good job, and who cared.
They were gorgeous photos, no complaints there, but who was that Vogue model tripping romantically along roads with a bunch of camels behind her, hair lifted delicately by sylvan breezes and turned into a golden halo by the back-lighting. Who the hell was she? Never let it be said that the camera does not lie. It lies like a pig in mud. It captures the projections of whoever happens to be using it, never the truth.
I was now public property. I was now a kind of symbol. I was now an object of ridicule for small-minded sexists, and I was a crazy, irresponsible adventurer (though not as crazy as I would have been had I failed). But worse than all that, I was now a mythical being who had done something courageous and outside the possibilities that ordinary people could hope for. And that was the antithesis of what I wanted to share. That anyone could do anything. If I could bumble my way across a desert, then anyone could do anything. And that was true especially for women, who have used cowardice for so long to protect themselves that it has become a habit.
And here I was at the end of my trip, with everything just as fuzzy and unreal as the beginning. It was easier for me to see myself in Rick’s lens, riding down to the beach in that clichéd sunset, just as it was easier for me to stand with my friends and wave goodbye to the loopy woman with the camels, the itching smell of the dust around us, and in our eyes the fear that we had left so much unsaid. There was an unpronounceable joy and an aching sadness to it. It had all happened too suddenly. I didn’t believe this was the end at all.