A new book and touring exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the daily life of a small Victorian farming community.
When photographer Kristian Laemmle-Ruff set out to document life in Lima, a small community in rural Victoria, he was inspired to capture a way of life that that has become increasingly unfamiliar as modern society has become progressively more urbanised.
An exhibition and book, In the Folds of Hills, features images by Laemmle-Ruff alongside interviews with Lima locals, conducted by his mother, Charlotte Laemmle.
With a family home on the Moonee Creek Co-Operative Farm, not far from Lima, it was perhaps inevitable that Laemmle-Ruff and his mother would collaborate on the project when it began in 2009.
For four years Kristian and Charlotte would head to the country to photograph and interview, with conversations taking place in people's kitchens, public halls and even the old Swanpool Cinema over countless cups of tea, biscuits and slices of cake.
"This project began with a curiosity to discover something that is quietly going unnoticed," says Laemmie-Ruff. "As our cities grow and society increasingly relies on technological advances, there remain those older generations whose lives are still rooted in a past era – the early- to mid-20th Century. This was an era where small-scale labour-intensive livelihoods could thrive. In the face of changing needs and corporate competition these kinds of livelihoods, such as the family owned farm, are disappearing.
"I first intended to capture day-to-day life and work in these secluded rural valleys. But after meeting the subjects and gaining their trust, I sensed personal stories which needed to be told. These environments were full of memory. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to still live in the house they were born in. Some objects in them suggested loss and melancholia, others embodied feelings of pride and even humour."
The book's foreword is written by former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who praises Laemmle-Ruff for his ability to capture the unique character of the place and its inhabitants: "Kristian Laemmle-Ruff not only has great technical control of his craft, but translates this skill into truly artistic photographs. His images of ordinary objects from everyday life invite the viewer to slow down and contemplate. These photos create a narrative that offers us insight into the way these people live. The portfolio focuses on individuals who have lived most, if not all their lives in this area. They are all hard-working and modest in their possessions. Their individual characters shine through the photographs with a rugged determination and strength."
In the Folds of Hills is on show in Melbourne from 1-8 May at The Compound Interest (15-25 Keele St, Collingwood, Victoria); in Sydney from 12-18 May at Tap Gallery (Gallery One, 1/278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst, NSW); and in Swanpool from 23 May to 19 June, 2014 at Swanpool Cinema (2386 Midland Highway, Swanpool, Victoria). Book launches will be held at The Compound Interest on 1 May and Swanpool Cinema on 23 May.
Jim Renkin (Liz & Jim Renkin story) in the Bedford. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff.
Ralph Pearce was born 90 years ago in the house he still lives in. His father bought 100 acres in 1900 and married a local girl named Mary Warnock. The family lived off the land. Ralph’s brother married and moved away from the farm years ago. Ralph never married and had no desire to leave the farm. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff.
A photo from the series on Ralph Pearce shows a rainfall chart from 1979. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff.
Ralph Pearce sits on his mother's bed. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff.
Old tins on the mantelpiece at Graham Jensen’s house. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff.
Moorngag Hall. The images from both the book and exhibition are concentrated on one small district of country Victoria, but they convey the universal challenges of country life. Photo by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff.