When taking the photographs for this essay, my primary goal was to simultaneously capture the actual horse race, but also the spirit, passion, and tension present in the town of Laverton itself. Laverton is an outpost at the edge of civilized Western Australia. It’s a harsh town, one where self-sufficiency is important, where people have developed their own culture because of a lack of strong outside influence. It is also smack in the midst of Australia’s battle with racism. I’ve tried to show this aspect with pictures of Aboriginal people. Whether it be the display of racism in #10, stereotypes about Aboriginal people such as #27 and #29, or the strong, simple, stark humanity in #9 and #31, I’ve tried to show both sides of the story and also to shock people, to make them uncomfortable to make a point. Contrasting this are the pictures of white culture: the fancy attire of the women (#11 and #26), the camaraderie of old men (#5 and #28), and even the bar and the drinking and smoking that is often attributed to the Aborigines (#23). There is also the race itself. The spirit and the will to win on the part of the horse are embodied in #2 and #25. There is hope in the jockey and his family (#16), defiance in the girl in the murder dolls shirt (#15), the walk to the start, the defining moment of victory, and finally the horse being washed down. For better or for worse, it is the Aborigines that lead the two-up: illegal gambling that knows no limits and is done openly in a country town like this (#32, #33, and #34). Lastly there are the children, the future of Laverton. There is innocence in 8, pride and happiness but also the beginnings of adolescence in #35, and equality in #17. These are the children that will carry the torch, the ones that may change the culture, and the ones that just might end the racism.
© James Mickley Photography