RUBY CANNING IS FAR FROM WHAT YOU MIGHT CALL A TYPICAL TEENAGER. A PRODUCT OF RURAL AUSTRALIA BUT A DUAL INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENT, SHE IS THE CO-OWNER OF A CATTLE STUD, A SHOWRING JUDGE AND THE FOUNDER OF A BURGEONING LIVESTOCK PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS.
Seasoned photographers warn against working with small animals or children yet Ruby Canning’s love for livestock, combined with her youth, have so far proved a potent combination.
Hailing from a long line of cattle producers in Inversleigh, a small rural settlement 28 kilometres west of Geelong, 18-year-old Ruby is not just a product of the land but has it running through her DNA. Growing up on a beef and cropping property she was exposed to life and death from an early age but Ruby says she didn’t truly appreciate what true loss was until the man she calls “Pa” succumbed to cancer when she was just 13. His passing inspired her to not only team up with her younger brother to run their own Simmental cattle stud, but also to make good on her promise to use her camera to offer a new perspective on her love for life on the land.
“My Pa and I were always close, and I had always grown up alongside him on the farm and around the cattle shows. He was, and continues to be, such a big part of our lives. When he became ill I realised life is precious, and little moments should be captured as a memory. From this time onwards I began to capture little moments in my everyday life of our family, my little brother growing up and just snaps out and around the farm. Pa left a lasting legacy and that is our source of strength.”
Initially set up as an extension to Mavstar Simmentals, a cattle stud she co-owns with her younger brother Jacob, Ruby was just 14 when she realised she could combine her love for the beef industry with her passion for taking photos. She launched her own photography business soon after. Armed with little else but a second-hand camera her parents purchased for her in 2011 and a raft of instructions she had picked up from the internet, her commercial career began when she started taking photos at cattle shows.
One of her first commissions was to take photos for the Simmental Association at shows around Victoria and these were later used in the association’s annual magazine used for promotion of the breed both domestically and internationally. However her raw talent and enthusiasm, combined with her age, meant before long cattle studs, breeding societies and clients were eager to have her on board.
A showring judge already, she was later named an official photographer at some of the most prestigious events on the Australian cattle calendar including the Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne Royal Shows. Since then her work has appeared in a host of both trade and rural lifestyle magazines while her prints have been purchased by admirers across Australia as well as others from America, Canada and New Zealand.
“My type of work was the type that captured the moment, quite different to the photography that dominated the show scene at that time. I wanted to be different; I wanted to capture a moment that reminds someone of an emotion, rather than [just] a win. For me it was easy making a business out of something I already enjoyed doing. My rural and livestock photography gives me an opportunity to talk and network with people who are passionate about the same things, to talk about agriculture, to hear their views and make connections, as well as showcase aspects of my beautiful life on the land,” she says.
Ruby was introduced to Nikon a few years ago when she first started doing event photography at the Royal Shows around Australia. Her first camera purchase was a second hand Nikon D7000, which remains her camera of choice today. Since then she has also purchased an additional two lenses – a NIKKOR AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR together with a NIKKOR AF-S DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF ED – which she uses for all her photography work.
A passionate advocate for youth in agriculture, Ruby feels it is important to set a good example for others interested in following their dreams.
“I wanted to show other young people they can do whatever they put their mind to and they will be well supported. [That said] I think one of my biggest challenges I faced was getting my name out there in the cattle industry as a photographer, and that is more challenging as a young person. I’ve grown up with cattle all my life, and believe I have a good eye, thus cattle photography came easy to me. However, since I have grown up in the beef industry I already knew a lot of people, and made some great contacts.”
But her talent lies not just behind the lens. Earlier this year Ruby was awarded a dual scholarship – the Simon Gubbins Scholarship (a scholarship supporting an individual recipient who is involved in the Australian beef industry) and was named a Future Leader Scholar, which has seen her move temporarily across the Tasman while she studies a Bachelor of Commerce degree with an agriculture major at Lincoln University.
But wherever in the world she ends up it is clear the farm, where Ruby has her own workspace in her room overlooking the garden and the paddock housing her horse, will always remain home.
“Growing up with and around cattle I simply adore the amazing creatures. When I am at home I spend hours just sitting in the paddock with them surrounding me, it’s moments like this I capture some of my best shots, as I want to capture their individual character. Many people who haven’t grown up with livestock don’t understand aspects of the rural life like that, and how humans and animals can have such a connection. I share a special connection with cattle, especially my show cattle, and I miss them when I’m away. Sunset photos are another specialty of mine. I love how each is so individual and contrasting. Many see life on the land as a chore, but I see it is a way of life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
[Words by Tracey Porter]