Reviews and interview submiited by Neal Drinann – Cowlick Bookshop Colac
Smoke and Mirrors
By Robin Bowles
When Stuart Rattle was murdered by his partner in December 2013, Victoria’s socialites were gobsmacked. What would cause Michael O’Neill, a gentle boy from Terang to turn so suddenly on his lover of fifteen years. How could this perfect couple who had it all – this interior designer to Melbourne’s money-set come to such a violent and tragic end? Robin Bowles expose, Smoke and Mirrors reveals a breathtaking parable of love, money and illusions.
Stuart Rattle and Michael O’Neill’s property, Musk Farm near Daylesford was a labour of love and perfectionism, a beautiful oasis in a world where appearances were everything but things are never as they appear. The price of keeping up with the Bangays and the darlings of Melbourne’s social elite proved too much for Rattle and O’Neill. With extraordinary sensitivity and compassion, Bowles unpicks the fabric of these ill-fated lovers and the result is both moving and compelling. A modern day tragedy that gives us all a pause for thought and raises the question, how far would we go to keep up appearances?
Five Mile Press $29.99
High Country Cattlemen
Melanie Faith Dove
Echo Publishing $39.95
In 2013 Melanie Faith Dove’s book ‘Working Dogs’ included quite a few candid canine shots of dogs from the Forrest and Otway region. This year she’s turned her love of Victoria’s Great Outdoors to the cattlemen and horses of Victoria and Tasmania’s high Country. Faith Dove’s parents Marilyn and Terry have a Charolais beef farm at Gerangamete where she still keeps two teenage pet cows of her own, ‘they are more like dogs than cows, they lick me and love a pat and a scratch.’ Her grandfather hailed from the Mansfield region where cattlemen lured wild, stray cows from the bush by putting out salt. She grew up with tales of highland polo and rough riding in the Alps and spent her younger years fascinated by the fabled traditions of the cattlemen.
Her unique photographic narrative powerfully captures a snapshot of Victoria and Tasmania’s High Country Cattlemen and Women in the seventh generation of their craft. The book combines her love of dogs, cattle, horses, and landscape and she’s not averse to laying in the paddocks to capture a bovine beauty at its best angle. (She’s a little more wary of getting under horses hooves!) The wild brumbies of Kosciuszko National Park offer plenty of illusive photographic opportunities which the author captures with colourful precision. ‘It was a massive educational experience, not only about this magnificent sub-culture but also about the land, how it is being managed through grazing and how it was managed in the past more effectively with cool burning.’
Interview with Melanie:
1/ What is your link to the Otways?
- My parents have a Charolais beef farm at Gerangamete, five minutes outside of Forrest in the Otway region. It is a stunning part of the world and I try to escape back there from my suburban life in Montmorency, Melbourne as often as I can. I still have two, almost twenty year old pet cows that my parents, Marilyn and Terry kindly take care of for me. They are like giant dogs really, they run up to me (well they did before becoming arthritic) and lick me, they love a pat and a scratch. For me, being out in the paddock with my cows is the best relaxation on earth.
2/ What draws you to high country?
- The high country has always been a bit of a mystery for me. My father grew up near Alexandra and my Grandfather Ray Dove who died when I was very young lived and worked all around the Mansfield region. My dad told us stories about cattle living in the bush and the cattlemen putting out salt to lure them out. It sounded like a made up story to me. Ray Dove also played Polo Cross and I heard tales about the Lovick’s and their rough riding, obviously very skilled but perhaps more reckless than most. From hearing snippets in the media about the ousting of the cattlemen from their Alpine summer grazing runs, I wondered if this sub-culture had ceased and would always remain a fable in my mind, I guess my curiosity led me to call Charlie Lovick and start asking questions. What was to become a long journey began from there. I soon realised that although the true upper reaches of the Alpine National Park had been closed to grazing, the State Forests on the periphery were still being utilised by the remaining families that were lucky enough to retain a run in those areas. I went about meeting and photographing as many of these last remaining families as I could. Victoria is a very large state when you visit the Alps, some drives took me seven hours to reach the homes of the cattlemen, I even spent two days and a night in Kosciuszko National Park chasing down Brumbies and I followed Judy Kilby as she attempted the muster of her cattle from Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania. The book was photographed most intensely over one year but two shoots were taken two years prior. It was a massive educational experience, not only about this magnificent sub-culture but also about the land, how it is being managed through grazing and how it was managed in the past more effectively with cool burning.
3/ Are horses more fun to photograph than dogs?
Horses aren’t more fun than photographing dogs but what I loved about this book is that I could capture dogs, horses, cattle, cattlemen and stunning landscape all in the one scene, how can you go wrong?
I do love photographing cattle though, I am quite comfortable to lay on the ground, looking for the best angle and have cows walk around me, I wouldn’t say the same for horses.