Exemplary mention- Marian Sutherland

Exemplary mention- Marian Sutherland
Ewe Fair, Hurunui. Copyright Marian Sutherland

Ewe Fair, Hurunui. Copyright Marian Sutherland

Kia ora tatou:

Every so often somebody sends me an image which is so good that I mentally give it a DIWIST (damn I wish I shot that) award, one which somehow sums it all up, which somehow shows a photographer completely it in tune with his/her subject material, and which I feel really needs to be shared. From time to time, as I receive and respond to them, I want to feature them on the blog and share them with you all.

A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being asked to judge the photography competition for the Hawarden A&P show. There were a huge number of images, with one exception all made by people who have no idea of what a camera club is, who make photographs for the joy of doing so and because they want to share the world as they perceive it. Often there are some wonderfully talented work from people who probably know nothing about depth of field and raw conversion, but who have a remarkable eye and awareness of light. When I saw this image, I fell in love with it, because it said it all, and because it was instinctively full of space and light and emotion. I wanted to meet the photographer and find out more about the story behind the photograph.

In this photograph a group of sheep appear to be plunging out of the holding pen, their sights firmly fixed on getting away. In the background are a couple of farm utes which may or may not be herding them, and off to the right is what appears to be a gate and an arm with what could be an animal counter. While we townies tend to think of sheep as inherently stupid, just ask any farm dog how dumb they are. If you have ever watched one of those dog trial competitions on TV, you will know that they can be cunning and stubborn and downright obnoxious. The sheep seem to know exactly what they are doing, and there is a sense that they are moving with a common purpose. There is a wonderful sense of moment, and the fraction of a section captured in the photograph is very precise, witnessed by the hoof positions of the leading sheep. There is a real sense of being charged down by  them. While the energy of the picture is in the centre, all the peripheral elements contribute to an understanding of what is happening, especially the arm, the open gate and the Just-visible chains on the right-hand end of the picture. Notice how the head and body positions of the following sheep create the sense of a moving mutton maelström (I really needed to say that!). Notice also how the position of the light (back left) imparts texture to the coats on the sheep, and how it increases the sense of dust in the atmosphere. This photograph  takes a very ordinary event and somehow raises it to the level of the iconic.

And now the back story…

Every year they hold a ewe fair in the Hurunui, where presumably sheep are bought and sold. It is a two-day event, so some serious trading obviously goes on. Marian was born and lives in Waikari, North Canterbury, and, being a passionate photographer, she was very keen to go and photograph it. She does not own a car, so her answer to the problem of getting there was to go out to the road and put her thumb out. Eventually she got a lift.

She has been passionate about photography for a long time, and, being on an invalid’s benefit, took some time to get enough money to get her own camera, a 7.5 megapixel  Fujifilm Finepix S5700 compact, which she uses for all her photography. This photograph was made using that camera. The image is straight out of the camera, since she knows little or nothing about postproduction.

Her great dream is to get her own DSLR, especially one with a wide-angle lens to enable her to really pursue her passion, which is photographing her world.

Marian, may your dream come true. Talent like this deserves to be fostered.

Update: Friday 22/03

Yesterday evening, on my way home, I collected and delivered a Nikon D80 with an 18-250VR lens to Marion. To say she was over the moon would be an understatement!

There are some wonderful people in the world. Trevor White is one of those, a charming, unassuming man with a huge heart (and a very gifted photographer). This wonderful act of generosity has made a big difference to Marion and I am sure the ripples will spread far and wide.

So often we see photography as a competition, when in fact we are a community.





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