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Portrait stories

The National Portrait Gallery interviewed the 20/20 artists and subjects throughout the commissioning journey. Browse these Portrait Stories to get insights into the incredible achievements of the subjects and the creation of their portraits.

Andrew Gaze
Video: 6 minutes 26 seconds
Tan Le
Video: 10 minutes 27 seconds
Catherine Livingstone
Video: 4 minutes 5 seconds
Jessica Mauboy
Video: 6 minutes 36 seconds
David Foster
Video: 7 minutes 30 seconds
Michelle Simmons
Video: 5 minutes 56 seconds
Anna Meares
Video: 9 minutes 19 seconds

All videos produced by the National Portrait Gallery are created with funds provided by Tim Fairfax AC.

- [George Fetting] It's lovely. Bring the face around, lift. Hold this, hold this. Yeah. That looks so good.

- [Andrew Gaze] Very much born into a basketball environment. When I was born, my dad was the general manager of the Victorian Amateur Basketball Association, and we lived in Albert Park in Melbourne. And what they did is back in the late '50s, there was these old army warehouse storage facilities that were no longer required, and the Commonwealth gave it to sport. And one of them was converted to basketball, one was to badminton, one was to table tennis, and in their wisdom, when they were doing this conversion, basketball built a manager's residence that was attached to the basketball stadium. And with my dad's job primarily was running that facility and trying to grow the game. So from the time I was born until I was about 13 or 14, I lived in that facility, so I had a very unique upbringing, and combined with that environment was the fact that my dad was an elite player and an elite coach. So the combination of an incredible environment with a nine-court basketball stadium really as my backyard and a dad that clearly had the wisdom to coach and teach gave me a bit of an advantage over my peers. Although I was born into a basketball environment, I never really had basketball athleticism. I had good size, I was always a little bit taller, and I grew to be 201, which I think is about 6'7". So I had an advantage with my size, but I was never blessed with great quickness or athleticism. Because I lived with that nine courts in the backyard, the amount of hours that I spent just shooting the ball. And a lot of times, it never really felt like official practice. You're just there, you've got nothing to do, and out in the back, your mates come around, and you want to shoot some hoops, and well, it wasn't official practice, so it didn't feel like practice. It absolutely was practice, and because of that, I was able to develop a reasonable perimeter game. For me, I think that the biggest advantage was because I played so much throughout those formative years, was just an understanding of the game. And I was able to use that knowledge to compensate for some of my athletic deficiencies. So it was, all of the stars aligned for me, and I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time in the right environment with the right parents, and all those factors came along nicely for me and enabled me to have a respectable career playing the game. The career highlight for me, it's hard to answer, because I've been blessed with so many unbelievable opportunities, and it's kind of like asking which one of your kids do you love the most, because they all mean so much. But I guess if you twisted my arm, and you said well you had to pick one, it would be representing Australia and playing in the Olympic Games. Because of my dad's involvement in the sport, I was motivated and inspired as a youngster to want to replicate that, and I learned, not just about the basketball, I learned about spirit of the competition, and all the other values associated with it were instilled in me at a very young age. For me, as a youngster, putting my head on the pillow and thinking of the most heroic thing I could ever do, and that was that to hit the winning basket for Australia to win the gold medal of the Olympic Games. That was my boyhood dream. And I suppose because of that, those opportunities to play for Australia and experience the Olympics and all the things that go along with it are the things that I admire the most and respect the most and feel the most grateful for. You got to turn whatever the challenge is, sometimes it can be arduous, where you're out on the floor, and you're spending a lot of hours, the coach is barking at you, and there can be circumstances that can really take you out of your comfort zone. But in your own head and in your own imagination, you've always got to keep it in perspective and understand it's gotta become fun, and you've got to sometimes make it fun. And if you can do that, and you have a love and a passion for the sport, you give yourself a chance. So have fun, enjoy the game, put the time in, but keep it in perspective, and make sure that you don't compromise other areas of your life in that pursuit.

- [George Fetting] I'm a bit seat of the pants. I know what I want, and sometimes, with a bit of serendipity, you've got to be a little bit lucky as a photographer. Sometimes, you know, the planets align, and it all comes together. And you know, you might take 30 pictures, and there's just one. That's all you need. And the face is an amazing thing. You know, you can shoot a face, and the slightest nuance, 29 don't work, and there's one shot, and you go, why does it work? Who knows. That's just the luck involved. I like photographing people. It means something to me, or for whatever reason, it resonates. You know, you can go with preconceived ideas, and everybody does. And then all of a sudden out of left field, something happens, someone does something. I'm an old pressin another life, and I work pretty fast, but I know when I've got it pretty much, I know when I've got what I want. So, and sometimes, it's luck involved. That's just the way it goes, you know. That's half the fun really. Get back, and you look at your negs, oh, your negs, you know, you go on your screen, and you go through, and you go, yes, I've got it. See the difference right there? Albert Watson is one of my heroes, an English photographer. He always said that 80 percent of a photograph was actually talking to your subject. I concur completely, because if you can make someone relax, do a bit of research, drop a bad one-liner, I don't know, just let them drop their guard, because I want to get behind that. I want to get them off guard. And that's the shot you want. You don't want that standard sort of stock headshot. You want to get stuff behind that, and that's what I'm okay at. You know, you don't always get it, but that's what, I enjoy getting that, going yes, gotcha!

[Tan] - My family left Vietnam in 1981, my mother took my sister and I out on a little boat into the South China Sea and when we left, we didn't know, at least she didn't know, where we were going to end up. But what she did know was that she wanted to give us a chance for a better future. We were very lucky because after five days and nights at sea we were rescued by a British oil tanker in the middle of the ocean and it was amazing, because I remember that moment when we approached this oil tanker, it was in the middle of the night, pitch black and you don't see anything. All of a sudden I said to my mum, "Mum, there are so many stars", because the stars were right in front of our faces in the middle of this pitch black ocean, see all of these incredible lights and they were the lights of the oil tanker. We were taken on to the oil tanker and then finally transported to Malaysia where we spent three months in a refugee camp. We were given the opportunity to come to Australia. I remember flying above Australia. I looked out of the window and I saw the expanse of space and there is so much space and so much land in Australia that you can't help but be blown away after being cramped in this refugee camp. Even when we were on the boat, even along the journey, we were cramped underneath most of the time, so everything felt very small. And here was this amazing place where we were going to land and I think it was amazing that we did that because now I'm here as a very proud Australian. Oh yeah, my mother and my grandmother are just both incredible women and I come from a strong lineage of women and, not surprisingly, I'm also a bit of a hard nut myself. My mum is probably the biggest influence in my life, not only did she take her responsibilities as a parent very seriously, but also in terms of, how do you role model for two children in the context of a migrant family resettling in a new country. And for her, education was so fundamental. You know, you can get an education, you can have active participation in citizenship in Australia, you can contribute to your broader community in ways that, not only elevate yourself and your own lot in life, but also to also give in a meaningful way in creating impact on the people around you and I think my mum's own sense of responsibility in how she took her civic duties, trickled through in terms of my own perspective on what my responsibilities are, not just as an Australian, but also as a global citizen and I think that's been a really wonderful lesson to carry in my life. I have always sought to find a way to contribute at the highest contribution value for my own set of experiences and perspectives. As a teenager, I contributed by participating in my own local community organisation and helped people from a non-English speaking background participate meaningfully in work so they could participate in society and resettle in a way that allowed them to feel a sense of dignity and purpose. That led to the Young Australian of the Year Awards. Then when I embarked on my career as a lawyer, I tried very hard to find a way to contribute more broadly to societal structures based on a legal framework. And for a new migrant community, that was a good way that I could help them understand how to negotiate that. But then, what became very clear to me very early on in my career was that technological advancements are driving the future forward and our world forward in a transformational way and so for me, it was very obvious that the trajectory that I was on wouldn't allow me to contribute in a way that I felt was the highest way that I could make an impact, at least in my lifetime so I made a very sharp pivot towards an entrepreneurial path. What we do is neurotechnology and neuroinformatics. Our mission is to accelerate brain research through electroencephalography or EEG for short. It's essentially a process where we measure and interpret and translate, essentially, electrical fluctuations that result from neurons firing and interacting inside the brain. And then once we understand how the brain works, and its connectivity patterns, we can apply it to a myriad of different diverse fields. My hope is that if we can democratise the technology around this and we make it affordable enough, then we will be able to find early enough markers for many of these conditions that are developmental in nature. I think that would be a major win.

[John] - I live in Los Angeles and so I made a trip to San Francisco to meet with Tan. Over the three hours of us chatting and having a good laugh we realised that both of us actually grew up in adjoining suburbs in Melbourne's Western Suburbs. She's from Footscray, I'm from Sunshine and also, we realised that we're the same age, and then we realised that we went to the same high school. She was actually fast tracked through high school whereas we would've been in the same class. We both experienced racism at high school and so, having that conversation with Tan and then having watched her TED talk about being a refugee and the experiences of her family, I guess, it had a huge impact on me, having come from a migrant family myself. I really connected with Tan's family story. So as much as I wanted it to be a portrait of Tan, and I really didn't want to detract from that, I still wanted it to, kind of, touch on issues of like, what it would have been, what would Australia be like, if we turn away people like Tan? You know, how many other people that can contribute to our communities and our society? And also, not only at a communal level, at, like, a global level. If we're looking at what she is doing when it comes to brain technology, she's effectively changed the way we live on a daily basis. So it was really important to bring that in to the piece. In our conversations, Tan and I had discussed suddenly bringing in the idea of technology and that's why I brought in other collaborators. I worked with Professor Colin Hall from the University of Adelaide, I worked with a company who created a privacy film which forces the viewer to have to stand in front of it, the portrait, otherwise it's out of focus, anywhere else in the gallery. And then I'm working with Christopher Boots who has helped me with the fabrication of the piece. There's actually a cross section of about four or five different substrates in technologies into that photo. Initially when Tan and I were discussing the concept, we started talking about the way women are depicted and also Asian women are depicted in imagery, in portraiture, in that they tend to be a lot more demure. We wanted it to be, you know, really badass! She's all these amazing things, she's an entrepreneur, she's been a community leader, she's leading the research in brain technology. So why would this person be depicted anything other than strong, powerful. I realised that the initial portrait that I'd taken of Tan wasn't gonna be as impactful, so therefore, I had to go back and shoot Tan. It was quite embarrassing I felt initially. She was fantastic about it. It was kind of a blessing in that, having that personal rapport with Tan really gave us the opportunity to take it to another level. We also had a couple good bottles of Champagne and hung out and had a really nice time, got pizzas delivered. So you know, there's a lightness that happens when you're then able to meet someone a few more times. I thought that it was really important to create a piece that was interactive. That forced the viewer to come into the gallery and, not just walk past it but to interact and then to have to ask a question. And that's why I integrated the mirror into the portrait. You know it forces, through all these various technologies, it forces people to a, stand in front of it and b then, I hope they then have to look into it and work out, I guess, ask themselves who Tan is, what did she do and also look at what's she's contributed to Australia.

[Tan] - Honestly, it was such an amazing collaboration to work with John because of that shared background. I think the first time that we sat down together for lunch and discovered we had so much in common and so much common ground. I think when you're a Western Suburbs kid, there's a lack of entitlement that is associated with that because you are a new migrant family, you're just starting out, you really don't have an, you expect that you're going to be shaping your life. And often you're the one responsible for also improving the lot of your parents who sacrificed to bring you across and so I think, in many ways, it was really great to work with John because we share that common history and I was shocked that we went to Westbourne together for one year. It's such a significant moment, especially for a migrant family, like we're first generation Australians so we're not a, I'm not a second generation immigrant and so to being able to do this in one generation is a major accomplishment, but it also symbolises a lot for what's possible with people who've come from another place and the grit and dedication that they forge and that they give back to society so I think that's really wonderful. It's amazing!

[Mathew] - I'm tuned into that thing of looking for things in people and I can see things in people's faces and I could just see so much in Catherine's face and oh that is just, I could just see it all.

[Catherine]- So what would have happened if you hadn't liked my face? What would you have done?

[Mathew] - I think that I would always find a way, but in this circumstance it was just instant.

- [Interviewer] And do you work from photographs?

[Mathew]- Yes, photographs, and then we'll have sittings with the painting, so I'll bring it down here, which would be tricky to get this here but we'll be able to do it, and just have a couple of sittings with it, you know, some sittings with the painting. So I've developed a way of working which is very much when I'm with someone I just like to mostly talk and just sort of suck up things as it were, and then I'll just sort of replay that when I'm back up in the studio. My portraits are like this because I want the face and the body language for me is enough, I actually don't really want to know that much about my subject before I meet them. I want to get everything by intuition and then see how that kind of plays out. There's so much there, there's just a universe there. And I can't even contemplate putting anything else in there that could tell more of a story than what's going on in the subtleties of the body language and what I can see in someone's face. I don't even have to think very much, I'm operating on that kind of level of just feeling my way along and It's like I feel in sync with Catherine and it's just funny how those things happen.

[Catherine]- Well when I saw the various options for artists it was just instant. 

[Mathew]- Right

[Catherine]- I didn't have to think about the others, yours was the style and the approach. It wasn't too busy, it wasn't trying to be complex, but there was a depth there. I was very nervous about what it was going to look like and I was so relieved when you sent through the first That's right. That's good.

- We're on the right track - Yep, Yep

- I mean I look at someone's face straight away and then I looked you, I wasn't aware of what you looked like,

- Right - and I just looked you up and then bang, straight away. My approach is really, it's very collaborative. I would never come in and say "This is what you're going to look like". Part of the process for me, part of the interesting thing for me is what people think they look like too.

[Catherine] -  You're in the artist's hands. You can't be saying how, I mean I can have a little comment here and there, but no the way it works you can't be interfering with it, you'd compromise the whole structure and the whole design.

[Mathew]- Not that you want to think too consciously about that, but there are other really important things that you need to be open to and to think about, so there are a lot of universal things that are really important in who Catherine is, what she's done, how she's got to where she has, the way she has, there's the personal, there's the kind of universal, its a multidimensional thing that we do when we work on a portrait and we just have to be open to those things and what that portrait can do in the future, what it can say to people.

[Catherine]- And actually that was Mat's point, that you have to think about something that's going to be enduring, and not just for the moment or the present, and I think that was an important point.

- [Jessica] My, kind of, way of living is not trying to live in regrets. I think everything you do takes you a step further to being the best you can. You make a mistake, you gave it go, and you must try it again. And there's always gonna be a way out. It's just being patient with it, it's all. Learning the patience. I'm always learning, I think. I'm always kinda finding people that are inspiring me everyday, and I always felt it was just healing. Music is a healing process for me, and I'm sure it kind of really takes people through their story, at times, when they're by themselves, or when they're with a group of people, or crowd. You feel this, kind of, permission to just be you. I think that's why I'm so close with music. That's why I'm, I have so much faith in it, and I put everything into it. You know, in the 15 years that I've been working, my way of presenting music, or performing, or singing, so, you know, I have so much respect for it, and you know, and we'll never lose that because it's always given me something back.

- [David] Jess had this incredible energy, which really seems to come across and she also seemed to be a very, sort of, authentic person. And that sense of vitality, and sort of optimism as well, is something that I really wanted to get across in the portrait. And we talked about art, and music, and how you sort of represent that, in a sort of, visual medium, so it was sort of collaborative, very much in terms of those initial conversations. The photographic shoot was quite a simple set up really. Just had a sort of, large black backdrop and the photographs were black and white, and they're just taken on this old 35 millimetre camera of mine, so it was all very low-tech and quite simple lighting, so it really makes it a much more, sort of, human interaction I think, in terms of the relationship between the photographer and the sitter. There's not a lot of, sort of, technology or other, sort of, imagery in the way. The technique that I was using was the double exposure, where you run the same film through the camera twice, so you effectively take two images and one overlaps on top of the other. There's not a great degree of control that you have as to which image, sort of, overlays with what, and how the two images combine, and I kind of really enjoy that sort of element of chance and the sort of unexpected sort of nature of that process. In the past, when I've done portraits in this, using this method, I've probably taken maybe four or five rolls, but because this was, you know, the stakes are a little bit higher, I took about 14 rolls. So, yeah.

- [Jessica] I had, really hard working parents who just wanted their children to, you know, succeed in life and do what they love and have a good life, but also a giving one, so that those values and those traditions in culture could be carried on. So, I think all of those kind of really come into play when I make that a part of my job. There's nothing like being a part of your community, and possibly making a difference, just by being yourself and making a pathway for the next generation or for people to come who wanna leave their mark and tell their stories. It's pretty, yeah, it's pretty cool.

- [David] I really wanted to present this multifaceted perspective of Jessica. We talked about this idea of chaos and stillness and how she manages to stay quite, sort of, centred within herself despite the sort of crazy lifestyle and I think she was about to head off to Eurovision, so with one of the layers of the images, she'd be quite still and looking directly at the camera and then with one of the other layers, she was sort of doing more movement.

- [Jessica] The portrait process has been different, I guess, working with David on, just having a bit of a play, having a bit of movement, really creating those layers of personality, and that's what we're channelling in the studio, is being strong, being loving to yourself and kind, but also being wild. I think, there's nothing like just being yourself and finding those little things that either make you tick or challenge you or make you feel so alive, is what we're creating in this portrait.

- [David] I hope the portrait will convey Jessica in a way that, there's this really strong sense of inner confidence and strength and directness, that the viewer can connect with, but at the same time I wanted to have some other more, sort of, mysterious or intangible quality to the portrait, which represents something a little bit more emotional, which relates not to her singing, you know, which does I think connect with you in a slightly more sort of intangible and almost a physical way, it sort of cuts through, so I'm hoping that those two sort of, aspects will be present.

- [Jessica] Yeah, I, wow, there are so many things, you could go for days. But I think, honestly, to really take pride in themselves, I really hope this photo projects their inner spirit, their inner souls, their courage. I want it to almost be like a mirror image of them, in the sense that they can do whatever they put their mind to. You know, I think it is about being brave and trying to find whatever that confidence within you, that's so, deep down there, be kind to it, and it'll come up every time you do it and you try. Thank you. That's crazy, how crazy is that? It's super awesome. Wow!

David - My father was a world champion. Dad's uncle was a world champion, but on my mum's side, mum's uncle and mum's brother was a world champion. So, as a kid growing up, watching my dad win world championships and hoping and dreaming that maybe one day that you could win a world title like your dad. Well in 1979 my dream came true, but it was much bigger and better than whatever a kid could ever imagine. I won my first world title with my dad, at Sydney's Show, which is the Wimbledon of wood-chopping, which was an unbelievable thing but I finished up winning that world title 21 years straight. 11 years with dad, and then 10 years with my brother Peter. So yeah, I'd classify myself as one of the luckiest guys in the world probably.

Jacqui - We've got the concept that came about with David, together when we were photographing him in the first shoot under the beautiful big tree, and he took us to a place where his family, they had won a few world championships. And he's standing under the tree and when he said, "If the tree could talk, imagine what it would say to us." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because it's witnessed all of the years of the family, and the legacy of championships." And I said, "Wow, what the tree saw." And that became the title, so he gave me a high-five and he said, "I'm an artist!" And enjoyed that moment of coming up with a little bit of poetry, I suppose you'd call it.

David - We've got the underhand, where you cut between your legs. The standing block where we cut up and stand. The single double hander, cross cut, sorry, and then you have tree-fellings. They said that if you can win the underhand and the standing block world title in Sydney, you can call yourself the best. But if you can win the two of them in the one year, it's called the double, which is one of the hardest things in the world to do. There's only been seven people that's ever won it and I've done it six times. The only person in the world who's ever done it six times. And I just know just how much work and effort has gone into that. I might let me dog in.

- [Camerawoman] Go for it!

David - Cause she's a whinger. She'll stop whingin' as soon as she comes in. I'm sorry, okay, well sorry Miss Mufford. Sorry Jordan. This is your house, sorry Jordan. Sorry about that, we've cut to now me dog come in her name is Jordan, and she's never been outside in her life and she whinges. If you wanna come back as an animal come back as a foster pet.

Jacqui - The idea is to create a photograph that looks like a painting, is maybe a mix of a painting and a photograph. So, I like the idea of hand-colored photography. The inspiration has come from the works of John Dempsey. I see the frame really as a theatre and that person is there, posed, in a particular way. Often with a prop, or some sort of costume. And you see with Dempsey's portraits, up close, he uses lots of little brush strokes. So I would be doing this a little bit differently than hand-tinting, which is rubbing in. There's not really a lot of detail, as much as this. But I'm a sucker for punishment. I think it's nice because you are working with a photo at the base of the image, which is very perfect, so my job will probably be, whether I like it or not, to create less perfection, which is the hand, that's what I like.

David -Well when you have a hundred axes, and they're all sitting in a cupboard, what we decided to do was actually name them. I bought two axes a while back, and I had all these names, Bill and Ben, and the next one was the Flowerpot Men, and then there's Brutus and there's Hotdog and there's, because I had a hotdog one day. So we do name all the axes, only because you know exactly that. Okay, I'm gonna grab Hotdog, because I know that that axe is gonna cut that. And there's one called Henry, my father-in-law was called Henry, and that axe I've won world titles with, so I'll grab that for a particular event. So, every axe has got a name.

Jacqui - I find it interesting myself where I have a miniature sort of portrait of a very well-rounded, robust sort of Australian athlete like David. He has a lovely presence. Here also the expression on his face is really beautiful. It's very strong, and it's also very gentle, and it's questioning like he's bringing something to it. This is a chance for an artist to interpret his story. And through this project too, because I've travelled to his place, where he lives, and spent time with him, so I get to know him and learn about him. And we've sort of, there's a collaborative nature of this, really. So I'm becoming familiar with my subject. And then the result is there for people to, they'll see the work but there's a story behind it as well. And I also think that I couldn't get David to give me this expression if I didn't spend time with him, and if we didn't get along, I think we get along. It helps to get along.

David - Yeah, it's amazing when ya sit back and think about it. 186 world championships, 175 Australian titles, the only person in sporting history who'd ever won 1,000 championships and its about 1,800 and something now. My sport has taken me for over 40 years, and I'm an OAM, and one of me mates said to me that was the OAM stood for Over-sized Australian Male, so I've got one of those titles. Made Tasmanian of the year. I enjoy life, I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, and there's 24 hours in a day, you can only do what you can in that day. And hopefully that rubs off on people, I'm a bit of a clown, I love taking the mickey out of myself, everybody else. Wood chopping is not one of those high-profile bunny sports, but I taught people that I classify myself as a millionaire. I might not have it in money, but there's no way you can put a value on winning a world championship, winning a world championship with your dad, and the last world title that I won with my dad it was a five and a half months after his heart bypass, and he hugged me and he kissed me, and he told me that he loved me. Well, money can't buy that. How fortunate at the end of the day, mate.

Michelle - I remember leaving one day and there was this 10-year-old with his mum. They had walked somewhere and they needed a rest, and she was just walking back, and he was looking through the window of the labs and she was trying to explain what it was but she had no idea. So, I said, "I'll tell you what it is a scanning something." And he said, "Oh is this where the quantum computer "is being built?" And I said, there's this ten year old - he'd heard of it. I said, "Yeah yeah do you want to see it?" And he's like, "Oh Yeah!" So I took him in, and I showed him one of the chips being measured and you could see everything. I was always a very curious child. I looked around the world, and I used to think, gosh, how does that plane get off the ground. I had a bicycle and I remember fixing my bike, and then trying to figure out how every part of it worked. And so as I grew older, and older, I suddenly realised that I liked things that were difficult. And understanding how things work was very interesting. At the age of 13, I realised I love physics. I'd started doing it at school, I could see that you could describe the world with words, descriptively, but you could also do it mathematically. And that's what physics was, it was kind of the combination of both and I just thought that was fantastic. I'd finished doing my Ph.D. and I did some research at the Cavendish in Cambridge, and I realised there that I loved quantum physics, so the more I involved the harder the subject that I took on and at Cambridge it was very fundamental quantum physics, which I loved, but then I really wanted to build something. I wanted to do something that would be useful. And at that time there was a researcher in Australia who was actually from the labs in the U.S. and he was here for three years on a research fellowship, and he wrote a paper that said if you could control the world at the level of atoms, you could build a new type of computer that would be much more powerful. And the research I was doing in Cambridge was very similar to that, and I suddenly thought hey, I've got the skill set that could actually help realise that project. The research that we're doing is really designing new hardware, a new computer chip for the future, and really honestly when we first said that this theoretical paper came out and it said if we could do this, this is the kind of speed-up you would get. And I remember thinking that science is right on the edge of what's possible now, as of that day which was back in 1999. And then we literary wrote out an eight point plan. How do we do it? Eight different stages and when we published that plan people said it looks great, but none of those stages have been realised and the chances of doing all eight is pretty impossible. But really the first couple of stages was bringing two technologies together that haven't worked, and that is the ability to manipulate atoms, which requires a certain kind of tool, with it the ability to encapsulate them, without them moving away from where you've put them. So that's another tool, and that was really the concept at the time, can we bring those two tools together, and make a device taking it through both tools and then bring it out again? I remember that point of signing off for the tool, knowing that if it didn't work this is probably the end of my career. We had a prediction of what we were expecting to see once the tool was operating and it actually turned out to be a factor of six better than we predicted, and so I remember when I saw the result for the first time thinking yes! Nothing beats that really and I've had that many times in my life, that something, yes! It was just fabulous and running around and showing everybody the image of what it looked like and you know everyone going, "Oh Wow!" 'Cause we weren't expecting it to be that good. One of the great things about the kind of techniques that we've developed is it's very open ended, so we are, at one level trying to build the hardware for a new type of computer and that is a very focused programme. But I'm conscious that we're developing technology that could be used for many other things, and certainly my goal is really just to see if we can understand the world at the level of atoms. So my hope is that, that fundamentally is the biggest benefit for what we do, 'cause we will design new tools, and we'll have new models to understand the world at that level and that will help us to understand how things form, eventually, hopefully, it will help us to understand how the human body forms, and how the brain works. That's the long term goal that I'd love to see. I realise there's a huge possibility out there and I just really just want to push it as far as we can to see what it can do. Working with Selina it was absolutely fantastic, for me getting to work with a professional at the top of their game, because I'm a physicist I have understanding of importance of a light and the setting, so I was fascinated to see what she did. It's very relaxed, very calm, thoroughly enjoyed the day. It was absolutely fantastic, and I've seen the portrait it's absolutely fabulous.

Selina - Yes, well I was very excited, and slightly nervous. But when I heard it was Professor Michelle Simmons, I was all on board, I was super excited to meet this impressive woman, and because I'd been obsessively researching about her, I kind of became a bit of a fan girl, and so I was quite nervous. And it's very true you start looking at all the articles, and watching videos, and formulating ideas and options of how you can photograph them in ways that they haven't been photographed before. In my art practice the environment is just as important as the subject, and so it's about the relationship between the two. So I was quite keen on looking around the University of New South Wales campus. And ultimately that environment was the final location for the actual portrait, and that's what I love about those shoots, is that it's often the option that you hadn't planned for that has that special quality about it, that magic.


- [Anna] We met over coffee, and I remember I was really nervous, because she sent an email beforehand saying, you know, think about how you might like to be portrayed, if you've got any ideas and all that sort of stuff. And the last thing I wanted was to have another picture of me in Lycra with helmets and bikes, to portray what I did as opposed to who I am. And so when I met Narelle, I remember the first thing she said is, "so what do you think? "What are your ideas?" And I was so happy that she asked me first, 'cause I was scared she was gonna say, how we're gonna put the bike here, and we're gonna put Lycra there. And then as I kind of explained to her how I felt about it and the ideas that I had, I could see I think she really resonated with it and she took it from there.

- [Narelle] When I got the commission and realised it was a pretty exciting thing, I'd never sort of done this sort of stuff before, I guess. And I had a bit of a google of you, and just to have a look and see what had been done. And you had been photographed so extensively, I started feeling a little bit challenged, you know. Thinking that, "how am I gonna make something different out of this?" And I sort of knew straight away I didn't want to have the bike in there. Or you in Lycra. But again, I was a bit worried concerned that you might want to do that, you know. So it was just such a relief to know that you were actually willing to try something a little bit different. And think outside the box a bit and taking it a different direction.

- [Anna] Yeah.

- [Narelle] So it was great.

- [Anna] Yeah. And I guess the idea for it came about you know in discussions that, me as a person, me as a woman, I wanted to finally have an image of myself that I could present that was a little bit softer, it was a little bit more feminine. But I come from the country, you know, and I love that connection from where I grew up, and so I kind of relied on Narelle around locations, given her experience of photography in South Australia. And I said I was looking for something that could convey some contrast, I guess, between the softness of how I want to be presented to the harshities that the country and land can portray. And maybe the landscape could speak for some of the traits that I'm known for as an athlete but also the person. It's a simple image, really, but it's quite complicated.

- [Narelle] Yeah, well there's a number of things happening in the photograph in the end, and we did think about where to take you and in the end I think it needed to be somewhere in the country and the landscape because that actually - you are a country girl at heart, and so that was a very basic need for the photograph, I think. And then just looking at, I mean I guess the idea of being feminine in the picture as well resonated with me. I think as a woman in a male industry as well, I think you dumb down your femininity a lot, just to be taken seriously. So it's a different kind of aspect you're talking about. But I think that, it touched into all of my ideas about how women should be portrayed. And so, you know even though I wanted to make you, embrace that softness and femininity, I didn't want to leave out the rest of your personality which is so strong and so powerful. And that's what people know you for, so using the symbols of the landscape, the toughness of the rocks, and the tree that's bent over. And there's a resilience

- [Anna] Yeah.

- [Narelle] in there. You know you can look at that photograph and just look at it and admire it, but if you want to look further, there is a story there about you.

- [Anna] Yeah. And it's interesting 'cause I only saw the chosen image not that long ago, and I got quite emotional in my response to it 'cause I did feel like it was a really beautiful image. Because when you're standing in front of the camera, you see the lens. And you're hoping and you're backing that the photographer, in this case Narelle, was capturing something special. And she did a really, really wonderful job.

- [Narelle] Yeah. We tried a few different things.

- [Anna] Yeah we did.

- [Narelle] And you had this beautiful dress that as soon as you put it on, it was the one, really. And it seems to have a little bit of mysterious history about it. It conjures up Picnic at Hanging Rock and stuff and country Australia. There was just something nice about that and it's very simple. And it glows, I think, in that light. It all came together really in that last kind of two or three minutes of light, I think. 'Cause we had different placements of you but in the end with you in front of the tree, it looks like you're part of the landscape, you're growing out of it with the trees and the rocks. So I really liked that about that part of the photograph.

- [Anna] Yeah. And I think that resonates really well, too, for where I'm at in my present point of time in life. Just because I'm in a transition period I'm going from a hugely successful sporting career and stepping into life without sport. And so I think again, there are so many correlations that come from that image.

- [Narelle] I mean I felt incredibly lucky that actually you wanted to go on a different journey

- [Anna] So excited, too.

- [Narelle] Like it was really nice and it's not a traditional portrait, you know, so it's um... You know but for me that was important because I think that I love traditional portrait but I also think for me, and the way I shoot it's about using the landscape as a bit of chance in there as well. Like the fact that we rolled up and we don't really know what we're gonna do.

- [Anna] Mmm hmm.

- [Narelle] And that we don't really know what the light's gonna do. And if it does come together, it will come together.

- [Anna] Yeah.

- [Narelle] It's about that moment in history and time and place.

- [Anna] Yeah.

- [Narelle] For you, for me. It's actually a specific time and place, I guess

- [Anna] Yeah.

- [Narelle] It can't be recreated.

- [Anna] Well, it all had to come together because we - months went by and we were looking at weather we were looking at schedules of both yours and mine, and we got one day where everything worked. And then for the weeks following that photo it rained.

- [Narelle] Yeah, it was crazy.

- [Anna] So we were very lucky.

- [Narelle] I can't believe I've looked at the weather forecasts for the month proceeding that it was driving me nuts, you know, trying to kind of second guess it.

- [Anna] You were getting nervous.

- [Narelle] And knowing that you were so busy, and like the cancellations would become quite stressful in the end. So yeah, it was great. We had this beautiful balmy day, really, in the middle of Winter, or the end of Winter. And this beautiful location which was a bit difficult to find, you know, like it was a strange sort of place, on the other side of the hills in Adelaide leading to Murray Bridge and it's quite barren, I guess. Rolling hills but then all of a sudden this crop of rocks sort of breaks out of the ground, really. And we were lucky enough to find Mick who let us onto his property.

- [Anna] Yes.

- [Narelle] For the last half hour. It was really fun because we were actually just chasing the light around, 'cause we were out behind a little bit of an edge of hills and so we were losing the light and we just basically, started down below and then walked up the hill and then found the sheoak, and you know had 10 minutes there and that was our picture.

- [Narelle] I guess I like using the landscape like a stage. You find something special and then you wait for the light. I love using natural light, I love seeing what the sun can do. And how it can illuminate things that you may not necessarily see. And actually points you into a direction to look at, and that's in the end you standing there and having the light shine on you. You are in this beautiful white dress, which kind of has a lovely soft glow and it brings a little bit of magic to it, I guess with the magic hour we shot it in. But all the parts of that picture tell a story. You know, like, there are about actually telling a bigger picture about you. You know, you have, you looking soft and feminine which is a big part of your personality which you've never really been able to project before, too much.

- [Anna] Well my profession doesn't allow for it, you know.

- [Narelle] No.

- [Anna] It's a very aggressive, intimidating environment where strength and power reign supreme. And I guess many people in my life see two different Annas. You know there's the athlete Anna, and there's the Anna at home. So it was nice to kind of tap into that a little bit.

- [Narelle] I think it's interesting how also, because you have been so tough and portrayed as that, is that's the only way they want to see you. You know, like the you about the steely-jawed, kind of, "get out of my way"

- Death stare. Which is kind of, you know, it is interesting how we can't, we can't separate that. We kind of either have to have girls looking girly, or we have to have 'em looking tough and kind of, almost masculine, you know. So it was kind of nice to be able to try and bring all that together and celebrate being a woman. That you actually don't have to be one or the other.

- [Anna] Yeah.

- [Narelle] You can be both.

- [Anna] There's great strength in femininity.

- [Narelle] Yeah, absolutely.

- [Anna] And softness as well. And I think you captured that really well. But the tree as well, you know, it's struggling to grow and has grown for a very long time and you can see the wear and the effect of what it's gone through, the struggles, the challenges that it's face. You know you see the dead log in front of it where parts of it has broken off but it's continued to grow. And I think that really symbolises the resilience and tough things that I've had to experience in my career as well.

- [Narelle] Yeah, absolutely. You know coming back from the accident you had, I mean, it's all there, you know, if you want to look at it The toughness of the rocks growing out of the landscape. That all builds the picture of, picture to me of you. And the little tiny tree in the background, I love that kind of aspect of, you know, you standing alone at the top of your career. Like you are an Australian household name and no one really has been able to be up there with you. So you're out there on your own. So I think there's all lots- and the rolling hills you know are very feminine as well. They're beautiful shapes and stuff, and there's a lot in there if you want to find it. You don't have to, but if you want to go looking, there's a story of you, you know.

- [Anna] Definitely.

- [Narelle] I felt really privileged to be able to photograph you, as well. Because you're everything that I love in a woman. Going after your dreams and being strong, and you're a household name in our family. My kids love watching you do the box jumps and stuff. It was a great gig to get. And I'm really glad you came along for the ride. You know, and we were able to be something a little bit different.

- [Anna] Yeah. Me, too.