I have just spent a couple of hours taking a vicarious, glorious road trip across Australia; into strangers’ living rooms, bathrooms, backyards and the back of beyond. And I didn’t even get out of my chair or spill a drop of wine. My tour guide, Kara Rosenlund did all the work.
This vibrant 33-year old Aussie has many slashes after her name; photographer, stylist, author, adventurer, Instagrammer extraordinaire, travelling retailer and ardent bantam owner. Add ‘truth seeker’ and ‘light chaser’ to the list.
Her CV is enviable and speaks to her enthusiasm for storytelling and a keen eye for the beauty in her surroundings. Kara was the youngest person to be named Photographer of the Year by the Canon Australian Institute of Professional Photography. Heading to London from Sydney in 2007, she indulged her love of interiors, working as a prop stylist throughout Europe. Her work has adorned magazines like Conde Nast Traveller and Australian Gourmet Traveller, and her vivid depictions of daily life featured in a solo exhibition at the Sydney Opera House. Elle Decoration called her ‘a modern day Martha Stewart’ (minus the jail term thankfully), but despite the effusive comparison, Kara Rosenlund is very much her own woman. She relocated to Australia in 2010, and on her latest solo sojourn across the country, she takes us along for the ride.
Armed with a Canon EOS 1D camera and boundless curiosity, Kara spent a year on the road to document where and how we live. Her journey began when she followed her instincts down a dirt track, to discover a ramshackle farmhouse with a tin roof the colour of chapped lipstick and a front gate like a single crooked tooth in a gappy grin. The simple faded beauty of the house awakened in Kara a desire to see more of our diverse, weather-beaten, colour-drenched country. She travelled the length and breadth of Australia, down many more dusty tracks, through tiny towns, into the highlands and along our vast rugged coastline, always chasing the light and trusting an innate feeling for a place. The result of her wanderings is ‘Shelter: How Australians live’; her first hardcover book and a heartfelt tribute to the “beautiful and tired, rambling and crumbling” places we love to call home.
“I couldn’t drive past and ignore that feeling,” she explains in her book. “I would need to pull over to get a sense of what I thought was in the landscape. Most times a shot was always there. Instincts are there to be heard”.
Those instincts serve her well and are lovingly explored across the 265 pages of Shelter. Kara photographs the seemingly mundane and makes it magical. The clothes on a Hills Hoist in Bibbenluke, New South Wales pop out from their misty morning shroud; a roaring fire illuminates the turquoise wall of a living room in Gala, Tasmania. A crowd shot of sheep stare back at the camera in Lisdillon, Tasmania like extras waiting for their cue. Two emus face off like rival suitors in a dancing ritual; the moment captured just right, to make you wonder what they did next.
The landscape and the light inform each stunning image; the wild beauty of Victoria’s surf coast, the gnarled gums which stand sentinel along a bush bridle track, the rich ochre of a beaten path and sun-warmed paddocks of grazing cattle. At Paratoo Station in South Australia, Kara charts her progress down an old rural travel route. “A shining cloud of dust always trails behind you, as a reminder of where you came from.” She spent three nights in an old boat shed hugging a pier on remote Satellite Island off Tasmania with all the doors flung open, watching the stars dance across the southern nights sky and listening to the water lap underneath. Completely alone.
But while her year-long quest was a solitary undertaking, Kara was not content to just photograph the scenery and move on without making a more intimate connection with her subjects. She sought out the owners who loved the fibro shacks, cottages and homesteads; documenting their stories and taking a stylish snoop through the interior of their shelters. A rustic bathroom with its window framed by a string of lights and a half-glimpsed message in a gauze curtain; a moody bedroom where linen sheets are tossed sleeplessly and another bedroom so bathed in light it appears dipped in gold. Kara uses the light to tease detail from the shadows of interiors, or to cloak them in mystery and hint at the rooms beyond the lens. With her warm and funny observations of the places and their owners, she takes us by the hand and invites us in to explore further.
Want more? Seek out Shelter at www.kararosenlund.com
While you’re there, check out Kara’s inspiring account of her trip to Namibia earlier this year (how does she fit it all in!) Her experiences with the nomadic Himba tribe and the strong, beautiful women of the Herero tribe left a lasting impression on her. The aerial photographs of the landscape, so different from our own are breathtaking, as are the more intimate portraits of its people.
When not heading off to satisfy her wanderlust, Kara’s own shelter is a tin and weatherboard cottage in Brisbane, which she shares with her husband Tim and her much-loved flock of Pekin bantams. Her interiors are what you’d expect from a well-travelled woman who knows how to mix the utilitarian with the unusual, found and treasured objects that reflect her quirky and engaging personality, (and she adores our Hale Mercantile linen sheets!). She houses an extension of her favourite vintage pieces in a 1956 caravan called Frankie, taking her ‘Travelling Wares’ across the country when time allows.
Maybe you’ll see her on the road to somewhere.
Meet storyteller Kara Rosenlund herself at the launch of ‘Shelter: How Australians Live’ in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. There will be a pop-up shop, an exhibition of 12 prints from Shelter and a chance to buy the book and have it signed by the author.
Melbourne – Oct 22
The Establishment Studios
23 Grattan St Prahran
6pm – 10pm
Register at http://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/melbourne-shelter-book-launch-and-exhibition-tickets-18010317344
Sydney – Oct 29
46-48 Kensington St Chippendale
6.30pm – 10pm
Register at https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/sydney-shelter-book-launch-exhibition-tickets-18701951039