Some days Alicia Frail still feels like pinching herself when she thinks about what she does for a living.
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
Ms Frail, the face behind Alicia May Photography, says she never thought she'd be where she is now, running a successful photography business and getting national attention for her recently-completed culture project.
It all started when Ms Frail realised she wanted to capture Indigenous people on country.
Her cousin encouraged her to find funding for the project, and with only two days until the deadline, she applied for a grant with the National Indigenous Australian Agency.
Forty minutes later she got a call, saying they loved her idea.
Ms Frail said she wanted to capture as many different families, and family structures, as she could. She was inundated with requests from Dubbo families who were keen to take part in the new project.
In the end, Ms Frail captured 30 Indigenous Dubbo families.
Some of the subjects she knew, but Ms Frail said she also got the chance to connect with other local families. They would have a yarn while she painted on the ochre, throw rocks in the river or just draw in the dirt.
It's that connection she says is the highlight of the cultural project. As well as getting people to embrace their culture.
"[I enjoyed] making the young kids feel empowered and special about their culture. It's saying 'don't be ashamed, don't be shy about putting ochre on' or the little boys with the lap laps or the girls wearing the grass skirts," Ms Frail said.
"Just making them aware it's okay and to feel empowered by each other."
Ms Frail said the response to the project had been "insane". As well as the national attention it's gathered, she's already had other communities reaching out for her to do the same in their town.
Next year, Ms Frail will take a similar version of the project into some local schools.
The photographer said she still couldn't believe this was her career.
"I felt like I wasn't working... I kept trying to pinch myself because it was amazing. I just never thought I'd be here and be this happy with my work," she said.
"I love doing family sessions and maternity sessions, but I think this is where I belong."
For 11 years, Ms Frail was a primary school teacher. When her son was diagnosed with autism, she stepped away from the classroom so she could focus on his early intervention.
"I had photography as a hobby just on the side. One thing led to another and I was just spending more and more time away from the classroom and just getting more and more shoots," she said.
"It was my passion but then I started making a living from it."
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app here. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.