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Book to immortalise Lima and Swanpool residents

A new book released this month tells the stories of characters living and working in Benalla district.

TONI BRIENT May 16, 2014 3:17am

Swanpool Cinema founders Kevin Smith and Shirley Swallow are featured in a new book, In the folds of the hills.


The stories of Lima and Swanpool residents have been immortalised in In the Folds of Hills, a new book released this month.

The book, created by Melbourne photographer Kristian Laemmle-Ruff and his mother Charlotte Laemmle, includes a foreword by former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.

It explores the wisdom and humanity found in the characters living and working in the area, including Swanpool Community Cinema founders Kevin Smith and Shirley Swallow.

Mr Laemmle-Ruff said the idea sprung from his family’s connection with the area, after owning a co-operative farm near Lima for many years.

‘‘We kept driving through the area not knowing who the people were who lived in those houses,’’ he said.

‘‘It was lovely to get to know people who had been through all these good seasons, bad seasons, droughts, floods, fires and everything in between.

‘‘I’d always been interested in the documentary and storytelling side of photography, but this is the first project I’ve done of this nature and to this scale.’’

It was in 2009 Mr Laemmle-Ruff and his mother first began visiting residents to document their stories.

The book ‘‘started to come together’’ in 2012, and discussions with a publisher began in 2013.

To accompany her son’s photographs in the book, Mrs Laemmle wrote the characters’ stories.

Mr Laemmle-Ruff said the two developed a great partnership during the project.

‘‘It was really productive, in a sense, that my mum could just focus on meeting people, talking to them, gaining their trust, asking lots of questions about their family history and experience on the land and in the area,’’ he said.

‘‘Her focus on that meant I could just really focus on the photography side of it.

‘‘Mum had a mature, experienced, feminine (approach), and I was this young, enthusiastic photographer.

‘‘I think they complemented each other well that we doing quite different things.’’

The book was released on May 1, and the launch will be held on Friday, May 23 at Swanpool Community Cinema.

From 7.30pm, residents are invited to view a photographic exhibition featuring prints from the book, and watch a feature documentary, created by Mrs Laemmle.

The film includes a local cast and depicts the 60-year history of her family farm and the changing face of farming.

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