Jeff Yard, Murrayville, Vic. Photo by Hardy Lohse.
Folio - Other people’s lives
That’s Jeff Yard sitting in his workshop. He’s 92 years old and a resident of Murrayville, Victoria, population approximately 350.
He was the inspiration for Other People’s Lives, a documentary photography project by ANU PhD candidate Hardy Lohse. Lohse first met him as he was driving through Murrayville on his way to Adelaide in 2011.
“I got talking to Jeff and he told me a little about his life, including how he came to be in the workshop where you see him now,” Lohse says.
“He tried wheat and sheep but the climate beat him and eventually he turned his dad’s general store into a service station and has been there since 1952.”
Jeff Yard is one of a dozen people who feature in the exhibition book for Other People’s Lives. “There are all these stories out there that should be, or need to be, recorded,” Lohse explains.
“It’s not that their lives are any more or less interesting than anyone else’s. It’s just that [these] towns are disappearing and the people and their histories go with them.”
The largest town Lohse visited as part of the project was Wingham, NSW, with a population of around 5,300.
The smallest, Oodla Wirra in South Australia, has a population of around four to eight people depending on the time of the year.
In all these places, industries have come and gone, with only some towns bouncing back through tourism or other means. Lohse was interested in what these changes have meant for the residents.
“Is it their choice that they’re there, or is it lack of choice, and does this say something more broadly about Australian culture?” he asks.
In exploring these ideas, Lohse sought to involve his participants in every stage of the documentary project.
“I work with them and discuss what they think best represents their life and circumstances,” he says.
“They have the final say over the images that are shown to ensure what is portrayed is what they feel best represents them.”
In coming late to Jeff Yard’s life, Lohse’s portrait of him depicts the final chapter of a long story.
”He’s pretty much blind now,” Lohse says. “No one really stops in the town, so there’s no one to sell anything to or fix anything for.”