Woolsheds and Shearing

September 20, 2017
Woolsheds and Shearing

I was having a look around the internet and this young fella caught my eye. His name is James Braszell and he works as a rouseabouts in shearing sheds all over the country. A rousy is the bloke who sweeps up the extra bits of wool flying around and keeps all the sheep moving to the shearers. 


While he was working, this young fella started picking up the camera and taking a few piccies when he could and what’s come of it is this bloody gorgeous ongoing visual documentation of one of Australia’s oldest industries. They used to say our economy was riding on a sheep’s back and for a century there, our wool industry gave us one of the highest living standards in the world. That head start arguably continues to today, as our cities are often named in “world’s best living” lists.


The world has moved on somewhat from wool as a staple textile but there is still a thriving industry around the country and Braszell’s visual journal of it, is fascinating to an old cocky like me. Technology has not had its way much over the years, even down to the shearer’s moccasins with the side laces that keep out the lice and don’t snag the wool. 


It’s still bloody hard work, too. You get paid $2.90 per sheep you shear, and it’s seasonal work so you gotta put your head down and shear like buggery. Shearers like to try and shear 120 sheep a day but it’s tough going to keep up that pace. Shearer Emma Billet told Melbourne based newspaper the Herald Sun, that when she started “I felt good the first day but when I work up the next morning I was sore in places I didn’t know I had, it hurt like hell. The first six to ten months was torture, I was so physically sore I couldn’t work hard and you are paid on the amount of sheep you shear.”


Rural Weekly interviewed young James about his photography and he said he tries to stay out of the shearers’ way when he’s taking the pics but they’re pretty easygoing blokes. "You won't find someone more easygoing than a shearer,” he told RW.


He also said that shearing was a small community and he thinks his photos strengthen the community. "Everyone is linked in the industry,” he said. "I will put a photo up and a dozen other people will recognise the person and say, 'That's so and so from New South Wales, it's been years since I have seen him. I didn't know he was still shearing.’”


Some of my favourite pics are of them laid out flat on the floor in their break or at the end of a long season. The exhaustion is palpable. There can’t be any job that gets you fitter I reckon. These blokes and sheilas must be pure muscle all the way through. Beats any bloody gym class, I can tell you that!


Shearers on the floor

James Braszell Photography


There aren’t just shearers and rousties in a wool shed though, there are classers and pressers as well and James documents all of them. There’s one old bloke whose only got one arm!


You should definitely go and have a look. A wonderful peek into a legendary Australian industry that still exists today virtually unchanged.


Dog in the woolshed

James Braszell Photography



Sheep on the Farm

James Braszell Photography


Shearers at Work

James Braszell Photography


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