The Birdsville Cup. Photographs and Book Release by Berylouise Mitchell. 14-25 October 2015. Opening Wednesday, 14 Oct 6-8pm. A selection of work will be shown, from the book of the same name, The Birdsville Cup. Photographs by Berylouise Mitchell.
The Birdsville Cup is a documentary photo essay by Sydney photographer, Berylouise Mitchell, on the iconic Birdsville Cup – a thoroughbred horse race held as part of a two day Annual Racing Carnival in the remote outback Queensland town of Birdsville. The Cup is now widely regarded as the ‘Melbourne Cup of the Outback’.
The series was shot on b&w film over two visits to the Birdsville Races in 1989 and 1990 whilst the photographer was studying photography at Queensland College of Art (now Griffith University) in Brisbane. The series covers every aspect of the races including the Calcutta Auction, the trainer of the ‘Birdsville’ horses during the early morning training sessions, the bookies, the punters, the races themselves and the crowds who come to party and take part in the event that swells the town’s normal population of 100 to over 6,000.
To mark the 25 years since the photographs were taken, Mitchell used crowdfunding to print and gift 100 books to the Birdsville community to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
I chose the Royal Flying Doctor Service because this is a charity the Birdsville community itself supports and without it remote life in the outback would not be tenable. I also felt strongly the images belonged back in Birdsville. It is such a remote location and a continual struggle for all of the small towns out there and everyone who lives in them or on the land. It is a really tough environment…dealing with the isolation and the extreme weather. It is something we in the coastal part of Australia don’t really experience, says Mitchell.
Mitchell has recently returned from a two week road trip Sydney to Birdsville and back. She and her husband drove the distance in their little Ford Focus hatchback – with only one tyre puncture the whole trip – not a 4WD like almost every other car on the road.
There was no other way to get the books to Birdsville but to take them myself…Freight is all by road and very expensive and would take two weeks to deliver. I didn’t have time for that. It took us three days to get there, says Mitchell.