Eight years ago Alice Mabin walked into a camera shop and asked for the best equipment money could buy. Was she a professional photographer? Not even close. In fact, she’d never even owned a camera. She boldly declared to the store owner she’d be a professional in no time and walked out the door armed with her new purchase, leaving him with a bemused smile on his face.
Of course, it was only moments later that reality struck Al, as she prefers to be known. She’d just handed in her phone, laptop and car after leaving a much-loved career with Pfizer that had taken her all over the world. The born and bred Kiwi was raised on a sheep, beef and deer farm and while she’d worked between Australia and New Zealand since 2007 in a range of careers, she realised she’d never had a hobby. The time had come and photography seemed as good as one as any.
With the same boots and all approach, the very next week Al found herself on an adventure that today has led her to publishing four coffee table books featuring thousands of photographs highlighting the agriculture and trucking industries.
The one that started it all - The Drover - comes from the nine months she spent on the historic 2000km trek, walking 18,000 head of cattle from Queensland to central New South Wales. What she’d planned on being one weekend quickly turned into many for the self-taught photographer, and now International keynote speaker and agribusiness leader.
Al, now based in Toowoomba, says her whole world changed from the experience. She went on to publish three more books that showcase the realities of two of our most important industries; The Grower - the heartbeat of Australia, and The Grower - the roots of Australia.
When she was quite literally hit by a truck in 2015 and suddenly found herself with no car, Al decided to hitchhike around Australia with truck drivers, documenting the ‘paddock to plate’ process of transport and its impact on everyone’s lives. It’s an industry she says is often taken for granted but one that we couldn’t survive without.
“Obviously I come from agriculture so I know what it's like to be passionate about raising livestock but I really have never met two more passionate sets of people than people in transport and agriculture so I wanted to showcase these people through my books, and perhaps help those who feel overlooked to feel empowered and proud of the industry that they dedicate their lives to,” she said.
“The people in these two industries do what they do because they actually love it. And when you ask them, ‘what would you do if you had your time again’ they always say there’s nothing else they’d ever want to do.”
Al’s third and fourth books on the grower series were published in 2018 and cover every commodity that we farm and grow, starting from where we’ve come from, where we’re going and where we fit in on a global agricultural scale. Today’s sector is a different world to when Al set out to create the grower series. Activist movements, fires and floods have taken their toll and Al says in reflection, she feels privileged she was welcomed through so many farmer’s front gates.
While there’s no more books in the works, Al’s increasingly taking to videography these days and has a new agricultural documentary in the works. She’s also creating an app and continues to share the highs, lows and behind the scenes through her stunning social media channels and keynote speaking. After being knocked back by countless publishing houses, Al’s five books are all self-published, which she describes as a blessing in the end as it gave her freedom to share the books far and wide. She’s also battled her fair share of naysayers, critics and copyright issues along the way but says the only barrier to success is yourself.
“I believe that belief and focus creates reality and the biggest barrier is our own minds,” she said.
“If we believe in something and we’re taking action towards that we will achieve it. Plenty of people told me I couldn't be a professional photographer or you can’t become a best seller unless you get into bookshops and here we are.”