A project that Wagga Wagga photographer Tanya Friend started six years ago has become her main professional pursuit – photographing and documenting older Australians living in small rural towns.

Photos Tanya Friend

The 40-year-old “full-time mother of four” gave up her wedding photography business of 16 years for the Breed of Their Own project, which has already resulted in one coffee-table book and a website (www.breedoftheirown.com.au). Tanya has travelled from Far North Queensland to southern New South Wales to photograph elderly people on their properties and in their homes and gardens. “I just love listening to them,” she says. “I really feel comfortable with that generation. They’re just so easygoing; there’s no rush in their life and they just have so much to tell.” Tanya says it’s incredible to think that many of them started life without being able to count on electrical power “and now some of them are on Facebook”.

Formerly of a cattle and horse property in Braidwood, southern NSW, Tanya didn’t discover photography until she was 19. “It just clicked,” she says. Tanya undertook a photography diploma in Canberra and has been a professional photographer ever since. 

Some of Tanya’s subjects have already passed on and she says that when she hears about another great person to photograph she “can’t get there fast enough” because she is concerned their years of wisdom and faces won’t be preserved. But overall the project has taught her not to worry. “I’ve learnt to not worry so much about getting older and to enjoy ageing,” she says. “So many of them are just so happy to be here still.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #112

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2017