The Crossing is the first collection from an ongoing documentary project between photographer Jerusha McDowell and her friend, guide and subject Mark Swan, capturing remote riding expeditions in the Snowy Mountains and high country regions.
Photos Jerusha McDowell
“This project explores a world beyond the comfort and confines of modern life, offering a glimpse of a vanishing legacy of horsemanship and bushcraft in the mountains,” Jerusha says.
The heritage and traditions of mountain horsemanship are etched in Australian folklore. Horses and riders self-reliant in the harsh and unpredictable landscape have captured our imagination. “Though their numbers may be few, there are still those who embody this tradition,” she says, “those who know the secrets of the mountains, riding a network of tracks used by horsemen for well over a century.”
Knowledge of these routes has passed in an unbroken chain stretching back before European settlement. “The first pioneers and drovers into the mountains often followed pathways shown to them by Aboriginal people. They are a route, providing a way through seemingly impenetrable bush and impassable terrain – a route offering water, shelter and safe passage in a landscape that can easily deny all.”
This collection features Mark and his brother Brian, and documents a plateau crossing in bad weather near Tabletop Creek in the Snowy Mountains. “The fog had closed in, blanketing the landscape and making navigation uncertain,” Jerusha says. “The wind and rain made lighting a fire seemingly impossible, and yet the quart pots were soon filled with hot tea.” (The Simpson quart pot that makes the tea they drink rode with the Light Horse in World War I. It belonged to an old stockman named Eddie Grace, whose family had a grazing lease on Nungar Creek. It was gifted to Mark on Eddie’s passing.)
“Photography is about more than pictures – it’s about revealing things unseen,” she says. “It’s about showing something through your eyes. That’s your job as a photographer, and your connection to a subject is the defining characteristic of your storytelling.”
Shooting in the mountains is never easy. The weather changes quickly around you, the riding is hard, and the environment harsh and unforgiving, especially towards sensitive camera equipment. “But as an artist, these are the projects you dream about,” Jerusha says.
You can see more from the project online at www.rushephotography.com or at Jerusha’s gallery at The Malbon in Bungendore, NSW.
This story excerpt is from Issue #152
Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2024