Women In Wool
The Australian wool industry would not be what it is today without the significant contribution of women. Often their role has been forgotten or underrepresented. Since colonial times, women have left their mark on the industry, such names as Eliza Forlonge, Elizabeth Macarthur and Anne Drysdale are examples of pioneering Australian women of wool.
Traditionally woolsheds were claimed as the domain of men. In the past men would utter the phrase “ducks on the pond” as a cryptic warning to other male shearers that there were women in the sheds and they should watch their language and clean themselves up. But this segregation has changed.
In recent years the role of women has increased dramatically across all aspects of the wool industry, but most significantly in woolsheds. Over the last decade the number of women in shearing sheds has almost doubled and it is set to increase further in the coming years. Today, in many sheds across Australia, sometimes women outnumber men when it comes around to shearing time. Women are active and important contributors to the prosperity of the industry.
The portraits are a celebration of the significant role of women in the industry. They are a diverse selection, including both young female shearers and experienced workers, ranging in age from 19 to 96. Many of the up-and-coming shearers started as rouseabouts and have stepped up to becoming shearers – one sitter for the project had just returned to the sheds after having a child only three-months before. Also included are women who have devoted decades of their lives to the industry and are only now becoming recognised for their vital role in Australian wool.
Behind The Scenes with nicole marie
Hi, Nicole here. This is a little behind the scenes info on this project, to provide some context for you to enjoy the imagery more closely.
Through this project. Women in Wool, I learnt that women produce at least 49 percent of real farm income in Australia. However, 80 to 90 percent of images and stories focus on and feature men rather than women. So, for me there was a real reverence in capturing the stories of these women forever, to acknowledge and appreciate their contributions to the industry.
Women have always played a really significant and active role in Australian agriculture. Their roles have changed over time and the project reflects that change. The number of women in the shearing sheds has almost doubled in the past 10 years and women now make up the majority of wool handlers and classers in the industry. Female shearers are still relatively rare, but the numbers are growing.
Visually in this project, my aim was to show the two main components of this experience: So the strength and openness of the women and the harsh beauty of the land. They really depend on each other and support each other and the connection is strong. Each woman that I spoke to, spoke so strongly about their love and connection to the land and the country, despite the challenges and to the people.
The diptychs I created also gave the viewers the chance to move in closer to this experience to see detail and piece the story together. I knew I wanted to show these women in strong, dominant poses: Much the way that traditionally men would have been shown in these kinds of imagery; direct eye contact, no kind of artifice, holding their own space. And I also wanted the images to reflect Australia.
Half the time the location was decided quite quickly. If they were working, we had less than five minutes to make the portrait. Sometimes I got to spend longer and go deeper into their story and their experiences. We started with a conversation and the connection you can get through that is what I tried to inject into the portraits visually. And sometimes that connection is represented quite literally in the images.
Thanks for taking the time to listen in today, if you’d like to chat about your upcoming projects with me, please call me or e-mail me through my contact page. Love to hear from you.
Women In Wool
Nicole Marie Photography