Farmer cap­tures liv­ing can­vas

Pho­tog­ra­pher shares work to spread knowl­edge of food and cloth­ing pro­duc­tion

Life & Style Weekend - - READ - BY Mark Furler Check out more photos at

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.

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