Walcha local Tasha Chawner, the “Conservative Hippie”, is a passionate creative whose heart beats just a little faster each time she focuses on shooting amazing images in black and white. Not wanting to be distracted by colour, Tasha focuses on form, texture, light and shade in her work …
Hi Tasha. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to call Walcha home.
I’m a wife of 20+ years and mum to two awesome kids, a friend to those near and dear, and a lifelong learner. I’m a creative and a lover of photography. And, I’m the Conservative Hippie.
When people ask, “Why the ‘Conservative Hippie’,” I tell them that I’m a Hippie because I’m all for love and peace and protecting our planet. I’m free-spirited, and a bit alternative when it comes to how I like to live my life. The Conservative comes from not dressing like a stereotypical Hippie – no flowing skirts and tie-die shirts – I’m more of a jeans and T-shirt sort of gal.
What brought me to Walcha? My husband’s early mid-life crisis!
We’d wrapped up a sugar cane harvesting business in the Burdekin, North Queensland, and moved back to Lismore to be closer to his folks. He made the decision to go back to university and study Forestry, which brought us to Walcha – his first Forestry job. That was over 12 years ago, and even though I get itchy feet every so often, Walcha is a great place to call home.
What do you most enjoy about living and working in Walcha?
The people. The weather. The sense of community. And the fact that I just can’t nip down the street to quickly pick something up without running into someone I know!
I really do love the weather, particularly autumn and spring. Growing up in North Queensland it was always hot and humid, and I honestly much prefer the New England climate – even our freezing winters.
Plus, I’ve met some amazing people and made some wonderful friends, who will be a part of my life wherever I end up.
When/how did you develop an interest in photography?
My earliest memories of taking photos was as a teenager. I managed to get a hold of my parent’s old Canon film camera while we were at a car rally – photos of cars jumping over dirt mounds, of all things.
Then, like most mums, when the kids were little, I took numerous photos of them, but it was when we moved to Walcha and my husband bought me a Fuji digital camera, that my passion for photography was really reignited.
From there I upgraded to a Canon 500D and bought my macro lens – macro is truly what makes my heart sing. I’ve always been one to notice the details, and macro photography keeps my mind open to the possibilities and curious about what is going on around me.
And photography is a form of therapy for me. When I pick up my camera, I slow down and start to relax – something we all need to do a bit more often in this world we live in.
What is it about black and white photography that particularly appeals to you?
When you strip an image of its colour, that is when the magic happens.
There’s no colour to distract, so you notice the light and shadow, the details, texture and form. You can really focus completely on the subject and notice every tiny, little thing.
There’s a certain timelessness to black and white photography as well. In years and centuries to come, if someone happens across one of my images, it will still hold the same dark and moody drama and emotion as the day I took it.
You’re a very talented lady! Not only do you shoot the most beautiful images, but you have a studio and create gorgeous jewellery as well! What materials do you mostly use to create your pieces?
Thank you! I have been working predominantly in copper for nearly a decade, although I like to add a little brass, silver and gemstones into the mix. I’m actually taking a break from making jewellery at the moment, as I’m discovering that my eyesight isn’t what it used to be … although all of my tools are still at the ready, just in case my muse comes calling.
Who/what encouraged you to start a blog, and what are some of the topics you like to chat about?
The day we arrived in Walcha, I hurt my back getting the suitcases out of the car. It was nearly 12 months before I was really able to get back on my feet, so to feel like I was still connected to the world, I started my blog.
Initially, I blogged about my little world, jewellery and spoke my mind about issues that moved me. That morphed into a bit of DIY and curation of things that I thought were beautiful or made me smile.
Now I’m focusing on my photography and showcasing it to the world, and sharing my knowledge of photography with those who are interested. Plus, I address topics that I’m moved by and that I think others would relate to. Honestly, though, my blog is really a journal of black and white imagery that makes my heart beat a little faster and a place where I can bring my ideas to life.
What would you say most motivates/inspires your creativity?
Flicking through magazines and getting lost down the rabbit hole of Pinterest. Visiting galleries or simply walking down the street. I draw my inspiration from sources many and varied, new and old.
My daughter helps with motivation. She’s a practicing artist and my sounding board for ideas. She’s honest with her critiques, so if I’m ever second-guessing myself (which happens often) I run it past her and she gives me feedback and a gentle push if I need.
Where can we follow your journey/
To keep up with what I’m blogging about and to see more of my recent work, visit my website: www.tashachawner.com.au
I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/photographybytashachawner/ and Instagram @tasha_chawner
Interview: Jo Robinson.
Hi Ashley. What’s your history in the New England area?
I’m a born and bred Guyra boy. I attended Guyra Central School, before leaving school to carry out a boiler maker apprenticeship at the Guyra abattoirs. After completing my apprenticeship, I wanted more opportunities and moved interstate to a fabricating job in Toowoomba, QLD, when I was 18.
You spent quite some time away from the area, living and working in Queensland. What brought you back home?
After a short time in Toowoomba, I decided to go out on my own and start my own steel construction company. This has taken me all over the country, including jobs as far north as Weipa in the Cape.
I have also been lucky enough to have three beautiful children in this time.
In 2017, after 20 years in QLD, I found myself doing more and more work in regional NSW and decided to move back to the New England area to also be closer to family.
What products/services does your business specialise in?
We specialise in shed building. There’s no job we can’t do, from your single car carport or garage to large scale machinery or industrial sheds. We are well equipped to carry out the largest jobs imaginable and love the challenge.
With an ever growing team of specialised tradies, we now also offer concrete services all over the New England as well.
What are some of the major projects you’ve worked on in recent times?
We have recently completed construction on a 3,200 m² facility for Uniplan in Armidale, a 6,500 m² Greenhouse on the outskirts of Armidale, Triple Machinery/Fodder sheds on a property at Ebor and the new Guyra SES Headquarters, to name a few in recent months.
What business goals are you focusing on this year?
We are looking to expand our team with local tradesmen and grow our concrete business. Ideally, we want to do more local work in the New England area.
Jack, my eldest son, has recently started working with our crew and is proving to be a great asset to our team; I look forward to getting him involved in the business more and more.
We have another side of the business we are looking to start soon as well – watch this space!
When you’re not working, what activities keep you busy?
I am a Ford enthusiast, so always enjoy working on vehicles as a hobby. I enjoy getting out to the dam when time allows and camping with family and friends.
Where can we find out more?
Go to Ash Bennett Steel Constructions on Facebook, email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0403 126 402 for an obligation free quote.
Uniplan is excited that our brand new factory is now complete and in use. This
3,000 m² building will allow us to continue to grow and create more jobs for Armidale. Uniplan partnered with Techspan and Ash Bennett constructions for the supply and erecting of this new facility and are very pleased with the outcome – Ben Scott, Managing Director of Uniplan.
Ash has been installing Techspan Sheds for many years, and we are very pleased with his professional service. His attention to detail is exceptional, and he is always ready to go the extra mile to ensure the finished product is exactly as intended – Luke Trewarn, Techspan Building Systems.
Ash and his team have recently finished construction of our new machinery shed. We couldn’t be happier with it. His workmanship is of the highest standard; he and his team worked efficiently to get the shed up quickly without any hassles. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending Ashley Bennett Steel Constructions for any size shed across the New England – Andrew Campbell, Guyra.