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Alice - Alice Mabin

November 03 2021

Alice - Alice Mabin
Alice - Alice Mabin

 

Making it work

Alice Mabin has the tendency to skim over shocking elements of her own life story, she has lived it, she’s so used to telling it that she gives only the briefest mention to her time spent in a coma, her car accident and her period of homelessness.

Instead she talks about the future, about her newest project for a subscription photo library for marketing and storytelling in regional and rural Australia.

It’s a fantastic idea, I tell her, but wait, what caused the coma?

We backtrack. Alice was born and raised in New Zealand, where she spent much of her childhood on horses showjumping and eventing. By the age of 15 she was trialing for the New Zealand eventing team.

“I was going too fast,” she said, “I was going too fast on the cross country and my horse slipped and then slipped and landed on my head.”

What followed was three weeks in a coma and the doctors telling her father that there was little chance of her walking or talking again.

But she defied the odds. Today, much of the work she does is from the back of a horse with a camera in hand.

In the years that followed her accident, Alice jumped across the ditch to a job on a sheep station in New South Wales’ Riverina, then went on to join the corporate world, working for animal health company Zoetis (then Pfizer).

“It was a great job helping farmers and getting to travel but I just got to a point where I thought I don’t want to do this anymore, I want to do something else with my life.”

And so she quit, just like that, she handed in her company phone, laptop and car and walked down the street and bought a camera.

“I’d never owned a camera, but I walked into the store and said to the guy ‘can you sell me the best camera money can buy please.’”

“He asked what I wanted to do with it and I said ‘I want to become a professional photographer’ and he looked at me and laughed.”

Jobless, with her newly acquired camera, she called a drover who had just embarked on the Brinkworth Cattle Drive, walking cattle the 2000 odd kilometers from Central Queensland to NSW.

The drovers were happy for her to come for a day or two to take some photos.

“I knew what I was doing and that I was willing to help out and I turned up with groceries and I could ride a horse and be helpful and do jobs and cook meals, so I ended up staying on for the whole time.”

After months of droving, Alice had thousands of photos and the ones she had posted on Facebook were gaining an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

“I designed these photos into a book and sent it to publishers, but none of them were interested in a book about droving.”

“So I decided to self publish it,” she said, “and when I hit print on 1000 copies, that was all I could afford. I completely cleaned out my bank account, so I had $0 to my name."

And then the book didn’t sell.

“Book shops wouldn't support me so eventually I just became this door-to-door saleswoman, going to shops and seeing if they were interested in it and no one wanted it."

“I ended up giving them away,” she said, “but then they just started going nuts.”

She became inundated with orders and had to sell her car to finance another print run.

Today, ‘The Drover’ is Alice’s biggest success, and she ensures she always has copies available. It has been followed by four more books and now, her new project, her digital library.

To find out more about Alice, you can listen to her on episode 49 of the Humans of Agriculture podcast, or visit her website here.

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