Two Inadequate Voices


2IV is a platform for image-makers to recount and reflect textually on their stories of being out in the world whilst photographing.

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Tom Goldner
Do Brumbies Dream in Red

The first time I saw a brumby was in 2009. Together with my highschool friends, I travelled to Tom Groggin, a historic cattle station which sits on the edge of the brown waters of the Murray River which splits Victoria and New South Wales. We swam in the cold water and in the evening walked barefoot on the wet grasses of the old cattle station where a legendary horseman called Jack Riley had once lived as a hermit in a bush hut for over 30 years. Jack Riley is believed to be the inspiration behind Banjo Paterson’s 1890 poem The Man from Snowy River. At dusk we stood on the grass plains and watched emus and kangaroos grazing in the last of the day's light. A mob of brumbies moved over the horizon under a pink and blue sky, and the sound of their hooves thumped against the wet grass. The wildness and beauty which struck me in that moment has impacted me deeply.

The second time I saw a brumby was in January 2020 while photographing what would become Do Brumbies Dream in Red? with cinematographer Angus Scott, I travelled through Kosciuszko National Park while much of the country was still burning. We snaked up winding roads and passed bare mountains scattered with burnt trees, patches of the country still smouldering in an uncanny red light.  

The grasslands I had once known were reduced to a sea of blackened earth. A large white brumby lay on its side, its legs positioned as if still in motion, its mane strewn across the ground and moved gently with the wind. Its swollen, pale body was already beginning to sink into the earth. It was the most traumatic scene I could imagine. Like much of the country I experienced, it was disturbingly beautiful and heartbreaking. I came to learn this brumby was an aged mare who would have been fleeing from the fire and had died from a lung bleed. The horse was the manifestation of our history, our present and future, tied to our existence and an extension of our actions.

I returned four times over the coming month and photographed her again. Each time was not easier yet I longed to return. Her skin turned browner and her swollen body shrunk as the grasslands around her sprung back to life.

I came to learn that horses only see in blues and greens and hence the title: Do Brumbies Dream in Red?

Tom Goldner is an artist residing on Wurundjeri country in Sherbrooke, Victoria. His creative practice is positioned within the expanded documentary genre of photography. His projects utilise a multifaceted approach in storytelling through multimedia and collaboration which negotiate social and environmental issues through long-formed narrative. Goldner intuited and ran the Fox Darkroom and Gallery in Melbourne and is now focussing on his own work and future photobook publication.