City in the frame for photographer's sea change

To coincide with the release of The Standard's Live Work Invest magazine, We'll be running a summer series of stories about why people choose to call the south west home. Put together with the region's councils to help promote our area as a great place to live, work and invest. REBECCA RIDDLE begins the series. 

A YOGA session on the beach and a ‘for sale’ sign on their dream home is all it took for Melbourne photographer James Mepham and his pregnant wife Emily to make the move to Warrnambool.

Leaving behind a successful photography business in Melbourne that took seven years to establish, Mr Mepham will start his business all over again, but he says he has no regrets.

“I felt confident that moving the business to this region would be a good long-term plan as we start the family here,” he said. “The area has a diverse industry and I like how you can really get to know your clients because the relationships are built on friendly service but also on professional reputation — it is a great mix.”

Mr Mepham’s wife is also a successful business woman in her own right. Working for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, she travels the globe assisting animals in communities struck by natural disasters. Although her office is based in the UK, Mrs Mepham has no problem working from home and finds the telecommunications in Warrnambool more than adequate.

The couple have extensive travel experience and hope to continue their adventures after their first baby is born in March but now it is Warrnambool they call their “base camp”. 

“I know this might sound like an advertisement for the town but we have everything we need here to work on a global platform,” Mr Mepham said. 

“Melbourne is close enough for a flight at any time, the internet is high-speed and we are able to link into meetings around the world with no trouble at all.”

A former army photographer, Mr Mepham was on the first Australian Army helicopter to arrive in Banda Aceh after the 2004 tsunami — an experience that has haunted him ever since with imagery that he says “makes you re-assess your values”. 

“To know that our lovely home and the active lifestyle waits for us to return makes the work/life balance perfect for us and why wait until we’re 50 to enjoy it?” he said.

“Choosing a place that was large enough to sustain my business, give us an opportunity to take on some post-grad study and start the family were the main factors in choosing Warrnambool.” 

Although he admits he misses the diversity in cafes offering vegan options, he says: “So far, all of the boxes are ticked.”

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