When I first decided to visit the protester blockade camp in the Leard State Forest, I arrived in Maules Creek to find that the camp was in transition from a camp in the forest to the back yard of a local farmer. I met Cliff Wallace the farm owner my first visit but he was quiet and always seemed busy with the farm. Over the next couple of months I spent most of my time at the camp and my connection with Cliff grew enough for small conversations, greetings and farewells always accompanied by big hugs, and the occasional paternal-like advice to drive safe or take care of myself when a sniffle or cough presented.
It wasn’t until I asked Cliff if I could follow him around the farm with my camera for a while that I realised how little I knew about him. He is a soft spoken and with the few words he does venture to say, he is frank. He’s a no bullshit kind of guy, so I felt some trepidation in asking to photograph him; in the case that he might think of me as something getting in the way of his pressing farm duties. When I finally found him in a quiet moment not caught up in hay or cattle, I took the opportunity to ask him. He agreed before I finished my question.
I’ve learned to juggle my camera with various and mostly unfamiliar farm tools; mending fences and vaccinating cows were on the list of things to do whether I was taking photos or not. All the while Cliff explaining farm life and his life as an unlikely activist ever interrupted by an errant cow or jumping out of the ute to open and close a gate to the next paddock. We’ve grown closer as I understand more and more how much I really don’t know about him. He seems to be starting to get used me as well, he’s growing more used to having a vegan around but still reckons that I could handle with the best of them as a “farmer’s wife”.