"The Story of Back When" - Rural Photographer Kelsey Atwell

April 24, 2019
"The Story of Back When" - Rural Photographer Kelsey Atwell




Kelsey Atwell, known to us here at Everything Australian as “The Cattleman’s Wife” is a cattle farmer, wife, mother and rural photographer from the Upper Great Southern area of Western Australia. Kelsey has bought a couple of Akubra’s from us and when she tagged us on her Instagram page of the same name, I was instantly drawn to the incredible images where she documents life on the beef farm, working with her husband and raising her two little ones.




Kelsey loves every aspect of farming life, and it is evident through her imagery. “Farming is a lifestyle, and we are so lucky to be able to do what we love every day. It's such a great life for the children. They are able to run around outside and scream and yell and get dirty. The things that kids need to do. They learn from a young age about responsibility, that we have livestock to look after before we do anything for ourselves. They also learn the importance of having good soil to grow plants and where their food comes from before it's purchased that the grocery store.  Jake is mad on machinery and is always building roads or fixing something up! Daisy is happy to be involved in anything that Jake lets her, otherwise she is off literally just playing in dirt.”




Kelsey lifestyle is pretty much a full-time gig, when I asked her how she juggles the farming chores with raising kids, she replied: “I don't think it's difficult, it’s just our life, every day is an adventure. Some things I have to work around with nap times, the school bus, how well the littlest one slept overnight, or didn't! I think the biggest challenges on the farm is just how much time goes into it all. We also operate every day of the week. We don't have weekends, public holidays, or even a break on Christmas day.  Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a little holiday, or just a day off with my husband and the kids.”




Kelsey’s farm is 5500Ha, and they own a second 4500 acre farm about 50 km down the road. The original farm has been in her husband’s family for generations, and they purchased the second one just a few months ago. “We run about 1450 head of breeders, which are all Angus heifers and cows. We use Angus bulls for our heifers, and Simmental Bulls for our cows. When the calves are a year old, they go into the feedlot. We produce beef for the Western Australian domestic market. We feed approximately ten thousand cattle for the season.”




On a normal day the first job is to always feed the cattle, followed by overseeing the grain receival for the day. Grain is mainly bought from local farmers and is specially mixed so the cattle can achieve ideal weight and amount of body fat. The farm uses approximately nine thousand tonnes of grain per year and can store up to three and a half thousand on site. After the feeding comes all the other jobs that need to be done to keep the farm running. “My favourite job on the farm is mustering in the cattle. I love getting out on the motorbikes or buggy with the kids and rounding up the cattle to bring them in. The kids love feeling the wind through their hair! It’s a feeling of freedom to be able to ride across the land.”


old guy


Photography has always been an interest of Kelsey’s and became a part of her daily life around ten years ago when she got her first camera. She loves the thrill of capturing the action around the farm, chasing the perfect shot. “I try and photograph every day. It's not always possible due to weather or if I need both hands, to operate the gate in the yards, for example. I like to show what the true workings of a farm is like through my Instagram page. We get so caught up in working and life, you don't always appreciate what you’re doing, when you are doing it. By taking a photo, I can capture that little moment in time, and then it can become a story.”


golden horsie


 “The story of: remember that time we had to help calve that heifer because it's foot was stuck? or that time you had to open the gate with the ants nest, or when you had to swim into the dam to retrieve the pump? that was funny, lucky I got a photo of that. It becomes as a part of our life, our story, our history and our legacy. A story from back when, a story from our lives.”


work dog


Kelsey’s favourite subject on the farm is her working dogs. “I love photographing them! I love the action when they are working the yards, capturing that animal on animal interaction between the working dogs and the cattle.” This love of the land and her animals is clearly seen through her work, capturing dusty moments in golden lights, and golden moments lived in the sunshine. When I asked her what her favourite photo of all time is, it turns out to be a shot from almost 10 years ago, pictured below, featuring a cowboy herding cattle silhouetted by the late afternoon sun, creating an almost iconic image of rural Australia. “To me it captures what we do on a daily basis perfectly. Working cattle, dealing with the dust and the heat. The Cattleman.”


fave photo