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Amos Chaplin, my grandfather, Gilles Plains (South Australia)

circa 1960
printed 1983


Robert McFarlane


1942 -


Known as a freelance photojournalist for major newspapers and magazines, theatrical photographer, writer, curator and critic for the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ Robert McFarlane also photographs friends and family. Here he conveys an intimacy with the subject – his grandfather – who trained and raced trotters in South Australia. Taken before he left Adelaide for Sydney in 1963, the romantic image, perhaps only to urban viewers, of man and horse against a rural backdrop evokes a real relationship between people and place. There is a mutual challenge between the experienced sturdy figure and the newly acquired emaciated horse, yet there seems little doubt as to who will succumb in this personal drama. It is a static moment before inevitable action. The two figures in early morning light are standing on a small well-stamped stage – the site of previous equine auditions. Framed by darker vegetation the horizon slopes down to the right as the opposing diagonal of pale sandy soil rises up, providing another sight line towards Amos Chaplin. The diagonals form different tones of grey triangular shapes which give visual interest and assist in balancing the disparity in size of horse and man.

McFarlane recalled: ‘I was 18 when I took this picture, using a Japanese copy of the Rolleicord twin lens reflex camera – a Ricoh Diacord. This picture is living proof that I was using the camera as a divining rod with only rudimentary skills.’1

1. Robert McFarlane interviewed by Rose Peel, 15 June 2006

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007



circa 1960
printed 1983

Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


24.7 x 25.4 cm image; 39.7 x 30.3 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed l.r. sheet, ink "Robert McFarlane". Dated l.c. sheet, ink "...circa 1960".


Purchased 1983


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Robert McFarlane

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Natasha Bullock, Australian postwar photodocumentary, Sydney, 2004. no catalogue numbers

Rose Peel, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian postwar photo-documentary', pg.189-207, Sydney, 2007, 202 (illus.).