Michelle McFarlane
Photographic Artist

Melbourne, Australia

Email: photo@michellemcfarlane.com


Commercial website: mmpstudio.com.au

Rusty Gems

On view

09 – 14 August 2023



A Photo Collection of “Up & Over” Mobile Wash Plants


Gemfields Festival


Outback Gem Gallery
Rubyvale, Gemfields, Australia

Central Highlands of Queensland

Exhibition Invite - Rusty Gems exhibition, 2021 - Rubyvale, Gemfields,

Michelle McFarlane

About the artist

Michelle McFarlane, a Melbourne-based professional photographer, is known for her work primarily within universities, hospitals, and laboratories, where she captures cutting-edge research, medical breakthroughs, and unfolding events. Amidst the pandemic's upheaval, Michelle found solace in the Gemfields, where she joined her father—a publican at the New Royal in Rubyvale—to embrace a new photographic journey.

Artist Statement

Michelle McFarlane

Known colloquially as “up & over trucks,” “mobile wash plants,” or “mobile mining rigs,” these unofficial marvels emerged during the 1970s sapphire boom. Innovations that shifted processing equipment across claim sites became the tools of solitary miners.

To me, these timeworn artefacts, forged by enterprising resourcefulness, encapsulate the essence of The Gemfields. Despite their pivotal role in Australia's fossicking narrative, their historical significance remains unrecorded. Captivated by their authentic presence, my lens elevates them into protagonists.

In the spring of 2021, the evening skies roared with electric storms, taunting promises of rain yet gifting me spectacular backdrops for my outback theatre. On an electric bike, I traversed remote claims, sharing tales over sundowners with fossickers. Twilight unfolded, and with it, we painted scenes with light—LEDs, head torches, car beams, halogen work lights, phone flashes, fluoros, and security lamps—all captured in a 30-second exposure.

Rusty Gems is my homage to a unique perspective on sapphire mining, where painted light unravels tales of resourcefulness and history.


Rusty Gems
Rusty Gems
Gemfields festival


Selected Works