James Braszell is a full time shearer and photographer.
James Braszell is a full time shearer and photographer. James Braszell Photography

A passion for wool and photography

HE IS now a full-time shearer who spends all his spare time promoting the wool industry, but when James Braszell first started out as a roustabout in 2012 he did not like his job.

In fact, most days he hated it.

"I was thrown in the deep end and I remember thinking 'oh my goodness, I have just finished high school and started roustabouting and I don't even like it',” he laughed.

The only thing that kept him coming back to the woolsheds near Ballarat in Victoria was the camaraderie he found with the people he worked with.

Even nowadays, for James, half the fun of being a shearer is meeting the people who work within the wool trade - he just loves listening to their stories.

But back when James was not enjoying the daily grind of being a roussy, and learning to shear at the same time, he decided to pick up a camera and snap some pictures as a hobby.

This led him to starting a Facebook page, which led to him starting a small business, and now James's images are loved by thousands of people every day online.

His talent for photography is matched with a good sense of humour so he has built a loyal following of country, city and overseas followers.

Now, everywhere James goes on his shearing runs his camera goes with him.

"I will just pull my camera out at work and take a few photos during the day,” he said.

"And on a Friday, if we knock off at three o'clock, I will have everything organised so I can drop it all off to my framers.

"Also, if we have a few wet days and you get wet sheep, like (last week) for example, it sort of works out quite handy so I can go and get a few photos printed off.”

On Facebook his pictures are posted with a small blurb about the person's role within the industry, like explaining they are the classer who processed 3000 fleeces that day, or the farmer's daughter who spent her morning drenching sheep before getting a lesson from her dad in shearing.

While you could describe him as an unlikely candidate to become a shearer, as he initially disliked working in woolsheds, you could also say he was an unlikely person to become a photographer.

"I never had any interest in photography until I started working in shearing sheds,” he said.

"My sister, Katrina Tait, started doing photography up at the Gold Coast, as a newborn and wedding photographer.

"I became interested in it through her. I thought I better try and get myself a camera because I thought I could get some pretty good photos working around here.”

His pictures give an insight into the wool industry, but also capture why James now absolutely loves his job - the people.

In candid photos, he captures sweaty shearers having a chat while resting flat on their backs during lunch breaks, seasoned wool classers closely checking their work and plenty of moments when workers are just having a laugh.

As a photographer, it was rewarding to get pictures of people in their element, he said.

"It's special to be the person taking the photos, because you know how much they love their job, so capturing them doing what they love... and being able to give them that photo, it's pretty cool.”

James describes the wool industry as a small place and feels his photos have worked in connecting people.

"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.'.”

While James has a lot of fun with his social media sites, there is a serious undertone to his work.

As animal rights groups, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, ramp up their campaign against the wool industry, he hopes his honest images and stories are helping set the record straight.

"With all the negative publicity that shearers and farmers get now... the only way you can have your say against theirs is by promoting what is actually going on,” he said.

"So hopefully by taking photos and telling people's stories and doing what I am doing, I would like to think that I am making a bit of a difference in the fight against it.

"I hope so anyway.”

Most of the framed pictures James sells are to the people who he has captured.

When he is working in a shed, shearers, roussys, classers and pressers will ask if he happened to take their photo.

He also makes a yearly calendar and even sells merchandise, like shearing singlets and hoodies, to promote his brand.

This year he is launching an online video series called Spinning a Yarn, in which he will post five-minute clips of farmers, or people working in the industry, sharing their stories.

"What happens in shearing sheds is something a lot of people are interested in but not a lot of people get to see,” he said.

James seems to have knack for getting even the biggest and burliest shearers in front of the camera.

"If I am somewhere where people don't know me, and I feel they are cautious about their photos being taken, I will normally just say to the shearers 'if I get in the way, just push me over', I try to make a joke out of. But they are all pretty easygoing. You won't find someone more easygoing than a shearer.”

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