Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Front Page -

A por­trait of a Border men­tal health ad­vo­cate will be fea­tured at the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery as part of the Na­tional Pho­to­graphic Por­trait Prize 2017. The pho­to­graph of An­nette Baker was taken by Chiltern pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher Natalie Ord.

Ord, who grew up in the Hills dis­trict and grad­u­ated from Gal­ston High School, was in­spired by the Baker fam­ily’s com­mit­ment to en­cour­age con­ver­sa­tions about sui­cide and men­tal health through the Win­ter Sol­stice & Big Splash events and their will­ing­ness to talk openly and can­didly about sui­cide which was once a taboo topic.

She was hum­bled and im­pressed by the will­ing­ness of the border com­mu­nity to talk about sui­cide, so when the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery called for en­tries for the por­trait prize An­nette was an ob­vi­ous choice.

“I’d thought about en­ter­ing the NPPP and I knew it had to be some­one I ad­mired. An­nette kept com­ing to mind and one day she phoned me to com­mis­sion some head­shots for her Men­tal Health Prize and I saw it as a sign. I asked An­nette and told her I wanted to con­trib­ute to the mo­men­tum that the Bak­ers had cre­ated of talk­ing about sui­cide and men­tal health.”

“I wanted to cap­ture An­nette not only as an in­di­vid­ual and mem­ber of the Baker fam­ily but as a cham­pion of men­tal health”.

Ord says “I needed to show her sto­icism, ac­knowl­edge her pain but also show hope. The most ob­vi­ous way was to pho­to­graph An­nette in the Mur­ray River - a metaphor for life”.

Ord pho­tographed An­nette last Novem­ber in the Mur­ray River with the help of Ord’s part­ner.

“The wa­ter was still very cold but the three of us were in the wa­ter up to our necks get­ting the shot. I had some ex­pen­sive cam­era gear an inch above the wa­ter!”

And that time in the brisk Mur­ray wa­ter paid off in two ways - Ord’s pho­to­graph is one of 49 fi­nal­ists from nearly 3,000 en­tries and she’s had dis­cus­sions with friends and fam­ily about men­tal health and sui­cide.

“I knew men­tal health is an is­sue that af­fects many in the com­mu­nity but I didn’t re­alise how many of my friends and their fam­i­lies were af­fected. It wasn’t un­til I told them about An­nette’s por­trait that we had those dis­cus­sions. One of the most alarm­ing things was the lack of ac­cess to ap­pro­pri­ate men­tal health sup­port ser­vices in re­gional ar­eas and the dis­con­nect be­tween phys­i­cal health and men­tal health treat­ment.”

Ord hopes that her por­trait of An­nette builds on what the Bak­ers have achieved in bring­ing sui­cide aware­ness to light and high­light the need for more men­tal health and sui­cide sup­port ser­vices across the coun­try, es­pe­cially in re­gional ar­eas.

Natalie Ord

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