Im­ages show ru­ral heart­beat

Countryman - - NEWS - Ann Rawl­ings

All books tell a story but not all books speak vol­umes about the Aus­tralian agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

From sheep, cat­tle and pigs, to crops of all shapes and sizes — and the ma­chin­ery to match — two new pic­ture books by ru­ral pho­tog­ra­phy spe­cial­ist Al­ice Mabin doc­u­ment an in­dus­try that faces con­tin­ual change and of­ten finds it­self at the fore­front of pub­lic opin­ion.

A pair in essence but sep­a­rate in terms of the sub­jects pho­tographed, The Grower se­ries sets out what Mabin read­ily ad­mits was an un­der­tak­ing far greater in scope than first thought.

“I did my sec­ond book, The Driver, which was about the trans­port in­dus­try, and peo­ple told me, ‘You can’t stop there, you have to do the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try’. I said, ‘Righto’, and so I did,” she said.

“Once I got into it and re­alised how big it was and the fact that no one had done what I pro­posed to do, I thought, ‘Well, you just have to do it, right’.”

Sub­jects that grew out of the ground were com­piled within The Roots of Aus­tralia, while those re­lat­ing to live­stock found their place within The Heart­beat of Aus­tralia. The aim was to ex­plore ev­ery facet of Aus­tralia’s ex­tra­or­di­nary agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

“The in­dus­try is so mas­sive that to do a com­pre­hen­sive job I had to let the project be­come what it be­came,” she said.

To com­plete the project, Mabin said she spent close to an en­tire year, or 331 days to be pre­cise, trav­el­ling the back roads of Aus­tralia along­side her trusty ca­nine com­pan­ion, a Jack Rus­sell called Bar­ney.

She passed through the gates of 551 prop­er­ties on her mis­sion.

“There was a lot of plan­ning that went into it. When you have more than 300 el­e­ments to the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try, and I only gave my­self 365 days to get it done, you have to be quite planned about it,” she said. The books have be­come No.3 and No.4 in Mabin’s self-pub­lished ef­forts to doc­u­ment the colour and ac­tion of life on the land.

The Roots of Aus­tralia of­fers up im­ages in­clud­ing a close up of canola seed in pod dur­ing har­vest at one of Jo­hanna and Wayne Tom­lin­son’s Gairdner land­hold­ings, as well as a 17-strong team of head­ers within one of John Ni­co­letti’s eastern Wheat­belt crops, also taken dur­ing last har­vest.

“Most of my time spent in WA was at har­vest, so I got a lot of dif­fer­ent har­vest shots from all over the State,” Mabin said.

“I also spent a good amount of time in the Kim­ber­ley to pho­to­graph the cat­tle op­er­a­tions there, which was lovely.”

In the Heart­beat of Aus­tralia, an im­age of Poll Meri­nos be­ing cir­cled by sheep­dogs in a field of stub­ble, taken at Jar­rod and Chelsea King’s stud, War­ralea, in Gairdner, of­fers a mes­meris­ing in­sight to the stud sec­tor, while an­other fea­tures Mar­garet River dairy farm­ers Daniel and An­drea Camp­bell and their chil­dren.

Mabin also en­sured the sim­ple but some­times labour-in­ten­sive act of feed­ing sheep be­came a new art form, de­picted on the back cover of The Heart­beat of Aus­tralia.

She en­listed the help of Dan­dara­gan sheep pro­duc­ers Di and Richard Brown last Novem­ber to create “sheep art”.

Hav­ing tried it at two other farms and know­ing what was in­volved in set­ting such a scene up, Mabin said nail­ing the photo was a mat­ter of it be­ing third time lucky.

Spelling out GROWER, Mabin scratched 15m-high let­ters in the Browns’ airstrip that were then cov­ered with grain for a hun­gry 1200-head mob. Lupins were the key to the suc­cess of the shot, which Ms Mabin took via drone.

“They hung about to lap up ev­ery last lupin and a great photo and video was cap­tured,” she said.

Born in New Zealand but cur­rently re­sid­ing in Queens­land, Mabin said in her trav­els she had been cap­ti­vated by the sheer scale and rugged beauty of WA.

“It is so big, and the peo­ple are cool, calm and col­lected and just go with the flow,” she said.

By drone, he­li­copter or cam­era, she was able to show­case the vi­brant world of farm­ing in WA.

“I think there is so much dis­con­nect be­tween the pub­lic and the gen­eral in­dus­try,” she said.

“The only time we hear about agri­cul­ture is when there is a drought or when there is some­thing go­ing wrong, and we never hear about the good sto­ries, the suc­cesses and the un­der­stand­ing of what has to go on.

“You need to hear both sides of the story, even if you don’t agree with it.”

For more de­tails on Mabin and her books, go to almabin.com.

Kids play farm­ers on the prop­erty of War­ralea stud co-prin­ci­pal Jar­rod King, of Gairdner.

Pic­tures: Al­ice Mabin

Sheep­dogs herd Meri­nos at War­ralea stud in Gairdner.

Har­vest at a John Ni­co­letti farm.

Pho­tog­ra­pher Al­ice Mabin.

The 2017-18 canola har­vest.

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