Moree farmer cap­tures the beauty of liv­ing on the land

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Front Page - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­

WITH her arms out­stretched and her face speck­led with rain­drops, eight-year-old Alexan­dra O’Neill beamed as the first de­cent storm rolled across the cat­tle farm.

Although only young at the time, the coun­try girl knew very well the im­por­tance of good sum­mer rain to the Moree, New South Wales, prop­erty that had en­dured six failed springs.

Cap­tur­ing the ex­pres­sion of re­lief and tri­umph on her daugh­ter’s face was a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment for her mum, Candice O’Neill.

The ru­ral pho­tog­ra­pher is driven by the de­sire to bridge the gap be­tween city and coun­try.

She wants all Aus­tralians to un­der­stand the work and hard­ship that goes into cre­at­ing the food that feeds a na­tion.

“When we saw the big storm we grabbed the Aus­tralian flag – it was on Aus­tralia Day last year – and we ran down in the pad­dock to try and get some photos,” she said.

“It was when she was wav­ing the Aus­tralian flag around that it started rain­ing… she was danc­ing in the rain.

“I get a lit­tle bit emo­tional think­ing about it be­cause it had been very tough times so to catch that mo­ment, it was a big thing.”

It’s now a year since she took that spe­cial shot and the fam­ily is liv­ing on a dif­fer­ent prop­erty near Tam­worth, but Candice is still pas­sion­ate about rais­ing aware­ness of the plight of farm­ers.

She has just signed up with Out­back Cre­ative.

Out­back Cre­ative is a new ini­tia­tive geared at bring­ing 50 of Aus­tralia’s best artists to­gether to build a one-stop shop for peo­ple look­ing to buy bush art.

“Out­back Cre­ative is not just about get­ting the artists to­gether, but we want to use that power to ed­u­cate peo­ple on what’s hap­pen­ing on the land,” she said.

“The art is giv­ing peo­ple a look be­hind the scenes.”

Out­back Cre­ative has quickly grown its so­cial me­dia foot­print, boast­ing more than 4500 fol­low­ers on Face­book since be­ing launched this year.

Candice is al­ready us­ing the plat­form to help farm­ers. She has teamed up with fel­low ru­ral pho­tog­ra­pher Matt Law­son to cre­ate a cal­en­dar to raise funds for the Bur­rum­but­tock Hay Run.

“Be­ing from the land, I know it’s so tough dur­ing dry times, so I think it’s a re­ally great cause,” she said.

“We only launched the cal­en­dar (this week) and we have al­ready sold 10 copies. We want to get a least 100 bales sold.”

Candice de­scribes the dis­con­nect be­tween city dwellers and peo­ple on the land as “scary”.

“I have cousins and fam­ily who live in the city who have prob­a­bly never been west of the Great Di­vide,” she said.

“And their chil­dren who would be the same age as my daugh­ter have no idea where there food comes from.

“There is a whole gen­er­a­tion who have no idea what goes into their milk or their bread or their steak.”

Through pho­tog­ra­phy and so­cial me­dia, Candice felt she was mak­ing a dif­fer­ence by pro­mot­ing agri­cul­ture.

“Shear­ing, mus­ter­ing, horses, cat­tle, stock­man… that’s the stuff I love to pho­to­graph,” she said.

“I think I am show­ing peo­ple some­thing that they might not get the chance to see every day like I do.

“But por­trai­ture and wed­dings pays the bills.”

Candice can’t re­mem­ber a time when pho­tog­ra­phy wasn’t her hobby.

Her first cam­era was a point-and-shoot film cam­era that was given to her as a Christmas present. Now she rarely leaves the house with­out her Nikon D800.

“Of­ten, if I am at home, I might be half­way through cook­ing din­ner and I will look up and see an amaz­ing sun­set, so I will jump on the quad bike and race down the pad­dock to get the shot,” she said.

“And when I come home, din­ner will be burnt.”

Her hus­band Tom is now the man­ager of a beef, sheep and hay prop­erty sit­u­ated about 30km out­side Tam­worth.

The mixed-en­ter­prise farm keeps the fam­ily busy but also cre­ates a won­der­ful back­drop for Candice’s art.

Re­cently the re­gion was covered in a blan­ket of snow.

The cold snap came as a “cli­mate shock” to Candice, who orig­i­nally grew up in Dalby, but she said she had to ven­ture out to get some pic­tures.

Dur­ing sum­mer months, Candice said her pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness, CJO Pho­tog­ra­phy & Print­ing, was a full-time job.

“I love pay­ing the bills with some­thing I en­joy do­ing,” she said.

A re­cent ca­reer high­light for her was be­ing com­mis­sioned to pho­to­graph the Buck Bran­na­man horse clinic in Tam­worth. Buck is well-re­garded trainer and the in­spi­ra­tion for the movie The Horse Whis­perer.

“It’s not every day you get to meet some­one who has had a movie made about them,” she said.

Search “CJO Pho­tog­ra­phy and Print­ing” on Face­book for more in­for­ma­tion or visit www.cjopho­

Candice laid down on her stom­ach to get this stun­ning photo of Lloma lambs at sun­set.


MODEL WORKER: A good dog is worth 10 men on the land... but more im­por­tantly, they make great sub­jects for pho­tog­ra­phy.

A draft horse wan­der­ing through the snow af­ter un­usu­ally cold weather re­cently, 40km south of Tam­worth, NSW.

Candice has pho­tographed barbed wire in every con­ceiv­able con­di­tion – desert, rich farm­ing land, drought and snow.

Candice had the op­por­tu­nity to pho­to­graph Buck Bran­na­man, The Horse Whis­perer, at a clinic in Aus­tralia.

Candice’s love af­fair with horses started early, be­fore she could walk.

A GOOD dog is worth 10 men on the land, but more im­por­tantly they make great sub­jects for pho­tog­ra­phy.

Alexan­dra O’Neill spent Aus­tralia Day danc­ing in the rain af­ter an­other long, dry sum­mer.

A Booroomooka an­gus bull stands proud.

Mix­ing feed for the cat­tle on a cold and foggy morn­ing.

Lambs af­ter shear­ing time.

Tak­ing the dogs for a swim is a great op­por­tu­nity for pho­tog­ra­phy.

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