AT first glance – it may seem an unlikely pairing, but mixing a true love of country living with shearing and photography has paid dividends for James Braszell.
James grew up at Miners Rest near Ballarat and now lives at Lexton.
He openly admits that school was not ‘his thing’ and couldn’t wait to leave.
He had friends involved in agriculture during his school years and had intended to head north and get work on a sheep or cattle station in the outback when school finished – but during Year 12 he got the opportunity to try his hand at crutching and rousying.
James then did a shearing school during the latter part of Year 12 and by the time he finished school, was employed full-time by a contractor, as a rousy and wool presser.
James continued with the shearing schools, before he “started taking a belly off at the start of the run, or eventually shearing one on the hour during the run”.
“By the start of 2015 I was shearing full-time and I've been doing it ever since,” he said.
When did your love of photography begin?
“NOT until I started working in the Sheds,” he said.
“When I first started rousying full-time, it was the beginning of Summer 2012/13 and I was working in 40-plus degree heat in a tiny woolshed, working my guts out and wondering why I'd wasted my last few years at high school - I hated it.
“At the same time in Queensland, my sister was starting a Photography business (Kat Tait Photography).
“I've always been a fairly creative type of person, and this made me think it would be a good idea to get myself a camera and start taking photos of the interesting places and people I encountered at work, while I decided if I would continue a career in the shearing industry.
“After a few months, I eventually came to love the job and I started pages up on social media for my photography.
“Nothing has changed, and I've still been doing both ever since.”
You have this amazing knack of being able to capture true country characters in your photos, where do you find them and how do you capture that essence?
“COUNTRY people are the best,” James said.
“They are the most interesting and down to earth people on the planet and I'm fortunate enough to be around them every day.
“There's no shortage of places for me to find them, and if you can capture them in their element doing what they love, they're the photos that turn out the best.”
Where has shearing and photography taken you?
“SINCE buying my house a few years back, I try and work as local as possible, so I don't get around as much as I'd like,” James said.
“I have shorn and done photography around sheds in the Riverina and Central NSW, and of course at the sheds I've been to in Victoria, but I would love to get around and see more of Australia with my photography too.
“I've recently got back into wedding and family/couples photography, and if this leads me interstate for photo shoots, I'd be more than happy to do a road trip and maybe call into some woolsheds on the way.”
What are some of your favourite memories?
“SINCE starting in 2012, I've worked with and made some of the best mates I could ask for, so I can't really narrow down any particular memories,” he said.
“Just being around these legends every day is great and we tend to make memories each week as we go.
“Anytime I get away or go to a new shed and meet someone new and we have a yarn over a beer is great - I love to hear people’s stories.
“I haven't done a lot of it, but I've had some good fun staying in pubs or on campouts too.
“Any chance to share a beer and some stories after work with your mates is always a good memory in my books.”
What goes into getting an amazing photo of a shearing shed or shearing?
“THE light some woolsheds can produce is awesome and at the beginning or even end of the day, at the right place and the right time, something as simple as a crack in the wall can produce great light to make an amazing photo,” James said.
“Unfortunately, I'm usually shearing during this stage and can only watch as my light comes and goes.
“Older sheds are always the best too as they have the most character.
“I try and keep a high shutter speed too, especially when taking photos of shearers and shedhands moving about their business.
“But that can be difficult when you're trying to let light in, so you've got to find a happy medium with this also.”
How does it feel when people react so positively to your work?
“IT'S great, because I can often spend valuable time off during the working day, walking around muddy or dusty yards, or following farmers, sheep and dogs around at lunchtime with my camera trying to get a photo that may not even turn out any good,” he said.
“So when people tell me they like my work, it makes it all worthwhile.
“I've had a stall at Hamilton Sheepvention for the last two years, and although this year has been cancelled, I'm amazed at how many people I've never met before call in and tell me they follow me online and love my work.
“It's very reassuring.”
What are your plans for the future – is it more of the same shearing and photography?
“I'VE got back into Family and Couples photos again this year and also weddings,” he said.
“For a long time, these never really interested me and I avoided jobs of this kind, but the older I get, the more I find myself appreciating this type of work.
“So I bought a new camera at the end of last year and thought bugger it - it might be time to get into it again.
“I'd love to get around the country and do some more weddings (in particular rural weddings).
“My next goal is a road trip around Australia funded by photoshoots.
“I've got no end destination in mind and it might not be all in one go, but I put out a post on social media recently outlining my idea and the response was amazing.
“I've so far booked in four weddings in three states and had a number of inquiries from all over the country for photoshoots of all sorts from it.
“I want to go anywhere and see as much of the country as possible - I just have to wait and see when the borders open back to up before I can travel interstate again.”
It is no wonder that James can take great country photos when he can relate so well and feel so comfortable, and really connect in these environments. Don’t miss an opportunity to catch up with James and his work – it is truly a pleasurable experience.