Here is my image, 'Sam and Robbie' that has been selected as a finalist for both the Head On and Percival Photographic Portrait Prizes. Tonight, the winner of Head On was announced, and although this image did not win, it has been a real thrill to have been selected as a finalist. It was truly humbling to have seen my photograph exhibited on the wall along side such fine work in the other finalists. The exhibition continues at the Museum of Sydney. Try to catch it if you are in town.
The winner of the Percival Photographic Portrait Prize will be announced on May the 13th.
Sam and Robbie
Born spastic cerebral palsy quadriplegic Robbie (right) has been denied a surgical procedure that would see the complete amputation of both his legs, in order to free him of worsening arthritis and bone spurs in his hips, which has resulted in ongoing and agonizing pain.
Sam (left) has been Robbie’s sole carer for twenty-two years, despite his own degenerative spinal disease. Sam, born transsexed, has steadfastly campaigned for Robbie's right to freedom from a lifetime of pain through this radical surgery, otherwise offered to non-cerebral palsied individuals.
Robbie and Sam live together on the outskirts of Sydney where this photograph was taken.
I met Sam and Robbie at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy where I was developing another photographic project and thought their story was an important one to tell. I travelled out to Penrith by train one day with a bag of photographic gear and spent a couple of hours shooting with them in their house. Whilst setting up for this portrait, I felt that I had a solid enough relationship with them both - and the temerity - to ask if Robbie minded being photographed in his ‘birthday suit’ (he had already joked about this earlier in the day). Without a second thought, he agreed. I think this decision lays bare both Sam and Robbie’s frank embrace of and struggle with their bodies - a kind of bald acknowledgement that asks the viewer to contemplate the complex nature of the human condition.