I awoke to the sad news this morning of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s passing. Of all the people I have photographed over the years, my simple portrait of her has to be the first time in my career where I had that gut feeling of knowing that the “moment had clicked” and I was sitting on an important image that would not only represent a wonderful woman and asset to the Australian nation, but a milestone image for me that would help open doors that otherwise would be unavailable, let alone even approachable.
The event Dame Elisabeth was hosting that hot day in December 2003 was the Australian-American Association’s annual Christmas Party at Cruden Farm. I have since learned that Cruden Farm was a wedding gift to Dame Elisabeth by from the late Sir Keith Murdoch. It is a wonderful location for a garden party and Dame Elisabeth would open up the property for many many public and private events over the years.
Sir Keith Murdoch helped found the Australian-American Association in 1941 and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was their Parton for some time. It was that connection that found me working as a social photographer at Cruden Farm that day. I had a lose connection with the Australian-American Association at that time as I had recently started my photography career and was always on the lookout for new opportunities to build up my portfolio. Simply stated, you can’t beat photos of the powerful when you are starting out if you want to make a name for yourself. This is a simple fact of life in the fame obsessed society that we live and work in.
This connection lead to many other opportunities to photograph the political and civic leaders during the mid 2000′s and helped me build up a body of work that I could use and continue to reference to this day. If fact, I recently included this portrait of Dame Elisabeth in a background package of text and images sent to CNET while they were researching for an article they published about my recent work as a Google Trusted Photographer on the new Google Business Photos project.
With all this in mind, I feel a bit sad this morning on her passing. She had an powerful presence, a warm glow and together with my camera and simple skill set at the time, enabled me to capture what I still to this day feel is my best portrait. I felt it a moment after I released the shutter and I feel it now.
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch worked tirelessly to help others right up to her passing at the age of 103. And in a very simple way 9 years ago on a hot day in her garden on a plastic lawn chair in the shade of a large tree – she helped me too.
Shot on Canon D60 with a 50mm F1.8 Lens
1/800th at F1.8 and ISO 100