After shooting more than 30,000 photographs of 27  rural events over the past 15 months, Nick Rains has painstakingly whittled down his images to about 300 in his latest hardback book, Heart of Australia, which is due out in March.

Photos by Nick Rains

Nick travelled to every state and territory bar the ACT for the project, which he says was the most satisfying yet in his extensive career as a photographer for many clients, including OUTBACK magazine. 

“I tried to find events with extensive heritage – like the Stanthorpe Show, which started in 1876,” Nick says. “I looked for the quirky, too.” Covering everything from huge, marquee events such as the Tamworth Country Music Festival and the Ekka, through to tiny events, such as the running of the sheep at the Booroowa Irish Woolfest, Nick says the book is “a celebration of having fun, being frivolous and enjoying life”.

With behind-the-scenes access to secure the spectacular images, he particularly enjoyed far-flung festivals such as Barunga in the NT (“a brilliant First Nations event”) and the Bream Creek Show in Tasmania. “It’s one of the oldest country shows in the country, dating back to 1897, and it has all those great events like Blundie throwing, pumpkin growing, jam-making competitions – the whole gamut. 

“The Parkes Elvis Festival was also really good fun. You pay to see the high-end performers, but you could take part in lots of events in the street for free. Everyone was really into it.”

Nick says that despite regulatory, insurance, financial and time pressures, there are still hundreds of rural community events each year. “Every single weekend in each state there will be two or three country shows. That community spirit is still very strong.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #128

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2020