Farmer captures living canvas
Photographer shares work to spread knowledge of food and clothing production
‘‘ Farmers are very good environmentalists. We have some of the best and most productive soil of anywhere in the world.
JOSHUA Smith grew up on a farm. He knows only too well the cruel cycles of drought and flood, the blood, sweat, tears and now technology that goes into the land. He also knows that many Australians think little of where their food comes from, nor the fibre that makes our clothing. And he knows too many farmers are rubbished for destroying the environment, even when most of them are better managers of the land than the rest of us.
Over the past decade, the rural and landscape photographer and father of two has been flying over northern NSW, documenting the incredible scenes below. The colours are so vibrant. The patterns so stunning. The lines so straight. Farming is art when it is shot from the sky and Josh captures it better than most.
The Canon photographer wanted us to better understand the farmers’ stories, and the incredible work they put into putting food on our tables.
“My goal is to tell the story of Australian farmers, who are the best and most sustainable in the world,” Josh said.
“Despite what some people think, farmers are very good environmentalists.
“We have got some of the best and most productive soil of anywhere in the world.”
His photography demonstrates the sheer scale and beauty of the land – paddocks that can be the size of Sydney suburbs. They are farmed by massive, GPS-controlled machines that are monsters up close. But from the air they are tiny blips on the sprawling Australian landscape. Together with long-time mate and pilot Joe Smith, Josh scours fields of wheat, barley, chickpea, cotton and sugar, looking for the magic combinations of lines, patterns, and colours that often spring to life in the late afternoon sun.
Josh, who grew up just out of Narrabri, more than 520km north-west of Sydney, has a keen eye for the “art” of the land – something that his pilot and mate has also acquired as they work together identifying the magic moods below them.
They have travelled across NSW, down to Grafton and Lismore, and up to southern Queensland, as well as across to Australia’s iconic desert heartland.
“There’s a lot of symmetry up in the air and a lot of angles to work with,” Josh said.
He loves the reaction to his photographs, particularly from farmers who may not see the beauty of their work in the daily grind.
“A lot of farmers see their property in a completely different light,” Josh said.
The photographer, who sells his prints as fine art, described the buzz of hearing people talk of his work at an exhibition. It was praise he admitted was still “foreign” to him.
He said Australian farmers had a lot to be proud of, particularly in the way they cared for and rested the land to ensure it remained productive into the future.
“It’s really an honour to be able to tell that story…. To show people where their three meals a day and clothes comes from,” he said.
Joshua Smith’s photographs – clockwise from top left, Isolate, Corduroy, Vinyl and Simpson – show the creative flair in the daily grind of farmers’ work.