The Social Herd

The bush is home. It's contentment. I find myself the most happiest when I am in the bush. Through The Social Herd, Xan works with rural-based businesses in all facets of strategic and creative marketing and communications.

MEET Alexandra MacAlpine (better known as Xan)


Growing up, Alexandra MacAlpine (better known as Xan) was often told by her mother that one day she'd marry a farmer. She always thought it was a curious assumption her mum made. It wasn't until a stint away at boarding school in Sydney, followed by a university degree in the same city did Xan realise what her mum meant. She yearned for the wide open spaces again, and the quietness that came from growing up on a small acreage block outside of Wagga Wagga with her horse Steel, always ready for a trot or a canter through the reserve which was just a short ride away. Thank goodness then that she did in fact meet a farmer who whisked her away to the Central West to a property near Grenfell, which she now calls home with her husband Alexander and their toddler son Jimmy.

Xan studied design and photography at the University of Technology in Sydney. One who always viewed life through a creative lens, Xan never quite knew what to do with her degree post-graduation. So she hung up the camera in the hope a career in marketing and communications would provide her with enough creativity to keep her mind at ease. After a number of years working within the private and public sectors, it was only in 2020 that Xan found herself finally being able to combine her passion and love for photography with her skills in marketing and communications by starting up her own business The Social Herd.

Through The Social Herd, Xan works with rural-based businesses in all facets of strategic and creative marketing and communications. If you asked her what the best part is about her business, it was finally the chance for her to pick her camera up again after all those years to work with amazing rural-based businesses and sole traders and help them grow their enterprises.

Xan's photography is real and authentic. It's everyday individuals at work doing what they love, and that includes the images she captures at home when her husband Alex is working on the property. Xan's work is a combination of images from the ground and in the air, often using the drone to capture images of Alex whilst he's out mustering.

Xan's photographic prints are limited edition with only 25 of each being printed. She wants the owners of those images to know that they are special and timeless pieces that can be treasured, and not something that can be reproduced. Her work is often caught on the fly - literally and figuratively! Sheep aren't going to stand still for long, and the sun is always moving, with each new day creating new chances for more rural beauty to be captured.

We chat with Photographer, Xan

What is the ‘bush’ to you?

The bush is home. It's contentment. I find myself the most happiest when I am in the bush. Don't get me wrong, I love a good coastal breeze and the sound of the sea lapping at the shoreline at night. But there's something so still about being in the bush that you just can't beat. Our property has this laneway that takes you from the front gate all the way to last fence line on our place and I find solistice in the fact that I can walk along there for kilometres on end and not bump into anyone but sheep.

How does the bush make you feel?

It makes me feel proud. Proud of what my husband and I have achieved and what we are building. Our home and our property are our sanctuary and we treat it with respect. But also proud at the fact of what we've done here together, especially since welcoming our son Jimmy into the world. We don't have family who are just down the road so we've had to learn to do everything ourselves and not rely on grandparents for help. It's made me feel more confident. I have found since moving here to be with Alex that confidence in learning to do things by oneself was essential for us to work together and be a team. Because that's what you've got to be out here in the bush. A team.

What is your favourite place in the bush?

You can't beat a good picnic spot. That's always a favourite place for me in the bush. At home we have a couple of go-to picnic spots. I remember when we first moved here, one of the first things we did was scout the property for good picnic spots.

I have another favourite place that is close to my heart and that is where my grandparents lived. Eccleston is located in the Hunter Valley near the Barrington Tops and we use to make the eight hour car journey from Wagga Wagga during school holidays to visit my grandparents as well as spend time with my cousins. I have a lot of fond memories there and still love to visit my aunts and uncles up there when I can.

How do you connect to the bush through your art?

My art is certainly connected to my husband Alex. He's one of the reasons I can make the art I do, so I will often ask what work he's got on for the day. Over the summer months, my favourite thing to do is take the camera and just go for a walk after dinner. Daylight savings is in full swing, the sun doesn't have that heat to it and everything is just so still. The light at that hour is just so intoxicating.

Why is it important to you that we can connect to the bush?

It's important we connect to the bush because without we wouldn't survive. We rely on the bush to be our home, our food and our income so it's imperative that we treat the bush and the land with care and respect.

Why is it important to you that the city and country connect?

So much of what the city has comes from the country. It's a big wide world out there, and often people can forget what's outside of their postcode. If the photography I capture and print ends up on the walls of a home in the city and strikes up a conversation about the bush, I feel like that's a positive step in the direction to narrowing the gap of connection between city and country.