Oyster farming spirit captured by Heide Smith

OYSTER farmers from the Wonboyn to the Shoalhaven were in Canberra on Thursday for the launch of the “Faces of Australia's Oyster Coast”, a photographic exhibition by renowned Narooma photographer Heide Smith.

PHOTO LAUNCH:  At the Canberra launch of “Faces of Australia's Oyster Coast - a photographic exhibition by Heide Smith” are Heide Smith, Member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy, Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis, Senator Colbeck and AOC Executive Officer Andrew Wales.

PHOTO LAUNCH: At the Canberra launch of “Faces of Australia's Oyster Coast - a photographic exhibition by Heide Smith” are Heide Smith, Member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy, Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis, Senator Colbeck and AOC Executive Officer Andrew Wales.

NORTH GROWERS: Oyster growers Leon and Angela Riepsamen of Greenwell Point and Ruben Fernandez of Wagonga Inlet and Tuross admire Heide Smith’s photograph of David Maidment and Ian Hoskins at the Canberra launch.

NORTH GROWERS: Oyster growers Leon and Angela Riepsamen of Greenwell Point and Ruben Fernandez of Wagonga Inlet and Tuross admire Heide Smith’s photograph of David Maidment and Ian Hoskins at the Canberra launch.

THE MAYORS: AOC Executive Officer Andrew Wales with Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Lindsay Brown and Bega Valley Shire Mayor Bill Taylor at the Canberra launch of the exhibition.

THE MAYORS: AOC Executive Officer Andrew Wales with Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Lindsay Brown and Bega Valley Shire Mayor Bill Taylor at the Canberra launch of the exhibition.

SOUTH GROWERS: Local oyster growers at the launch in Canberra were Anne, left, Andrew and Stacey Loftus from Wonboyn, Greg Carton from Pambula and Brett Weingarth of Merimbula. They are standing with the Heide Smith photograph in the exhibition of fellow oyster farmer Paul Emmanuel of Wapengo.

SOUTH GROWERS: Local oyster growers at the launch in Canberra were Anne, left, Andrew and Stacey Loftus from Wonboyn, Greg Carton from Pambula and Brett Weingarth of Merimbula. They are standing with the Heide Smith photograph in the exhibition of fellow oyster farmer Paul Emmanuel of Wapengo.

PHOTO LAUNCH:  At the Canberra launch of “Faces of Australia's Oyster Coast - a photographic exhibition by Heide Smith” are Heide Smith, Member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy, Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis, Senator Colbeck and AOC Executive Officer Andrew Wales.

PHOTO LAUNCH: At the Canberra launch of “Faces of Australia's Oyster Coast - a photographic exhibition by Heide Smith” are Heide Smith, Member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy, Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis, Senator Colbeck and AOC Executive Officer Andrew Wales.

Its first public showing is at Narooma Oyster Festival held April 5-6.

In launching the exhibition, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture Senator Richard Colbeck praised Australia’s Oyster Coast (AOC) and its initiatives to demonstrate the industry’s value and its sustainability, including “this exquisite exhibition” showing the people behind the industry.

The exhibition shows oyster farmers from the major oyster producing estuaries of South Coast NSW, now branded Australia’s Oyster Coast (AOC), which supports one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable oyster industries.

“We asked Heide to put a face to what is an intriguing but little known industry to most people,” AOC executive officer Andrew Wales said.

“Heide shows the people at the heart of the industry and manages to portray their rugged hard working spirit.

“It’s fair to say she’s captured the romance of the industry in the faces of these farmers.”

Heide Smith continues to be intrigued by the people around her, even though semi-retired on the coast at Narooma after a running a professional studio in Canberra.

“From my home near Narooma, I watch oyster farmers in their punts tending their brood in all weather from very early in the morning,” Ms Smith said.

“They seem so connected with nature and that to me is a good way to be.

“In a lot of portraits I’ve taken over the years I had to flatter people.

“What I love about this collection is it shows the very essence of the people who work in the industry along the coast, honest hardworking men and women. I think people will be endeared by these portraits.”

The collection will later go on a six-month tour along the East Coast.

Click here to check out all Heide's photos