Shadows and dust

My grandfather loved photography.  A vet with the Australian Light Horse in First World War, he returned home to his farm and horses. He decorated each room of the farmhouse with pictures of Egyptian monuments and planted date palms outside.  

I have custody of his old negatives for the period between the wars. While he was very taken by the Middle East country side, he didn't waste film on Australian landscapes. He photographed people and his horses.  Sometimes, if I am lucky, the people are in an old airplane or car or sulky, and a bit of a shed, tennis court, river bank or the old homestead is just in view.  Like the landscape, he is a conspicuous absence in these pictures.

This negative was a bit different from the rest. It is a little blurred. The western plains, flat, off into the distance.  Solid fences to be proud of, a wooden shed still square, a high tree chicken roost and the rig for his lead horse.  And my mother.

It is late afternoon, the angle of the sun and the parched soil suggests the end of summer. He has planned to take this photograph, but is a bit rushed. In the dust we can see his recent footprints walking fast to and from his subjects, reorganizing them for the single shot he would take.

Also, among the dusty footprints, are the late afternoon shadows. And maybe the shadow closest catches part of him.

Image: Carinya, Western Plains, New South Wales, 1938


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