Since 2009, Melbourne-based photographer Kristian Laemmle-Ruff has been regularly visiting Lima, a small rural town just over 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. He has been unravelling the stories of its locals, investigating what it means to live on remote, farming land.
Laemmle-Ruff has been working with his mother Charlotte Laemmle on In the Folds of Hills, an understated photographic book that shares the stories and lives of people not often seen or heard. Laemmle, who has a farming background herself, wrote stories to accompany the photos in the book.
The pair have a house on the Moonee Creek Co-Operative Farm, and the idea for the project initially came from a desire to understand more deeply the local area they had so often visited. The mother-and-son team have collaborated on film and photographic projects before. And in keeping with the nature of this project, they took the time to build relationships with their subjects, often spending the whole day with them, drinking tea and exploring their properties.
It was important to Laemmle-Ruff to capture the quiet pace and humility of rural life – rather than the stereotypical, patriotic themes that depictions of rural life often invoke. The pair honestly represent the local landscape with simple portraits and by including everyday objects. “They’ve been in this space their entire lives. Everything has so much memory in it, so I tried to slow down and see something significant in their physical surroundings, even if it was just wallpaper or an old cracked glass.”
Personal stories aside, In the Folds of Hills tells an overarching story most farmers can attest to. Laemmle-Ruff explains that it used to be a whole family would live and work their entire lives on a farm. Now, the children of farmers aren’t sticking around like they used to. “There are ageing farmers who’s kids have moved out to the city. Old people in their eighties and nineties are looking after these huge farms. It’s going to be interesting over the next decade or so to see what happens to these people and these places and farming in general.”
In the Folds of Hills launches with an exhibition at The Compound Interest on May 1 and runs until May 8.