Emma Bradshaw has overcome two serious accidents and chronic pain to launch a successful business that specialises in rodeo and campdraft photography.

Story By Beverley Neil

Growing up in country New South Wales, Emma Bradshaw had a dream to be either a barrel racer or a rodeo photographer. But after two accidents while away working in her beloved Kimberley, WA, the dream could have been shattered. Instead she has triumphed over adversity to establish the successful Wild Fillies photography business.

The oldest child of Steve and Jenny Bradshaw, Emma was always active in horse events. After school she enrolled in university but Steve, a country policeman and rodeo pickup man, suggested she first head to the outback. Through friends, Emma’s parents contacted Peter Gray on “Laurel Downs” at Fitzroy Crossing, WA, and in February 1996 they bought their 17-year-old daughter a one-way plane ticket to Broome.

“Dad had told me, ‘If anything happens, we’ll bring you home’,” Emma says, smiling at old memories. Though Peter eventually became Emma’s ‘Kimberley Dad’, in those early days she suffered from loneliness and isolation. “Two weeks in I hated it, so I rang Dad and he said, ‘I’ll put your mother on’, and Mum said, ‘Grit your teeth and get on with it’.” Jenny’s response belied her feelings. Unable to comfort her daughter, Jenny sent disposable cameras, inspiring Emma to capture scenes from her new life.

Returning home to Narrandera in the off-season, Emma brought back photos vividly depicting the terrain and stockcamps. The Kimberley had worked its magic. Then 18, she purchased a Holden ute, returning to the Kimberley before starting on Moola Bulla Station at Halls Creek, in June 1997. Nearly 12 months to the day after she’d left home, Emma’s parents were woken by a phone call at 1am with the life-shattering news that Emma had been airlifted to Perth after an accident. Jenny recalls her terror, not lessened when the station manager phoned with details.
Having helped turn out a mob of cattle, Emma, riding a flighty green horse, picked up a small mob of horses to bring back to camp, negotiating unfamiliar country where creek beds crossed the landscape. She’d already lost her bearings when her horse stumbled, crashing into a creek bed, throwing Emma to the ground and breaking her back.

This story excerpt is from Issue #79

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2011