Barcelona & the Pollux Awards …

… very welcome news from Barcelona this morning regarding the 21st Pollux Awards … the prestigious International photography prize hosted by famed Spanish based FotoNostrum Magazine. Even better is that the news involves three of my (at the moment) lesser known works.

“The Last Image of Alf … Alf Neal OAM” has, up to now, been somewhat overshadowed by another earlier image I made of Alf on his hundredth birthday with his great great grandson Kailan … “100 Years & 3 Weeks … Alf Neal OAM” … which has been recognised numerous times around the planet and in Australia.

So it was a gratifying experience to see the portrait of my old mate Alf … made on the verandah of his Yarrabah home in the last days of his one hundred and first and final year … selected as the ‘Winner’ of Pollux ‘People’ category. I know that Alf, if he was still around, would be immensely proud … and I’m sure that his Yarrabah family will be too.

The ‘icing on the cake’ is that two of my so far ‘unsung’ images … “Voices & Bubblegum … Aurukun” & “Surviving Cyclone Jasper … Bill & Michelle” … were both awarded ‘Honorable Mentions’ in the same ‘People’ category … a nice ‘triple’ 🙂 . The ‘Bubblegum’ pic was made at ‘Indigenous Voice to Parliament’ referendum pre-polling in Aurukun, when young Kythie Yunkaporta was more enthralled with the bubblegum skills of Shuntay Marpoodin. The image of Bill and Michelle Dunn was made as they told their harrowing story of survival at their Degarra (Bloomfield) home destroyed in the massive flooding that followed Cyclone Jasper.

The Pollux Awards have been good to me over the years … and this is the fourth year in a row that I’ve been fortunate to be selected as ‘Winner’ of the ‘People’ category (earlier ‘wins’ … 20th Edition here 19th Edition here, 18th Edition here ).

One of the nicest things about the Pollux Awards is that the winners works do end up as physical framed photographs on a wall … the very prestigious walls of the FotoNostrum Gallery, Mediterranean House of Photography, in Barcelona, Spain. That will happen from July 2025 … (a nice time to be in Barcelona and Spain 😉 ? ).

Very nice also to be in the good company of my US photojournalist mate and Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Robinson Chavez, whose work was selected in the Pollux ‘Documentary & Reportage’ category.

You may find all of this years Pollux Awards winners in a special edition FotoNostrum Magazine here … … my work is on pages 64 & 65, whilst Michael Robinson Chavez’s works are on page 116.

Images © Brian Cassey

Bill, Michelle … & Cyclone Jasper …

“Forgotten in a Paradise Lost to Disaster” 

… that’s the headline The Australian used above my image of Bill and Michelle Dunn standing in the wreckage of their home, published earlier this week.

Their rural property at the tiny far north community of Degarra on the bank of the Bloomfield River Cape York, was not just flooded but scoured away by near 3 metres of rainfall over two days in the aftermath of Cyclone Jasper. 

The pic was used 5 columns across page 3 … (and if it wasn’t for the coronation of Australia’s Danish Queen would likely have been on page 1) … and is arguably the most moving and emotional image I’ve made for some time.

Bill (73) and Michelle (58 ) managed to escape the torrent with their lives as the waters rose “a foot every ten minutes” forcing them to swim out of their kitchen window. Using wound sheets Bill tied the couple to a tree but the flood waters grew too high. Fearing the worst they had to let go … and were swept by the rapidly rising waters to a higher tree where they sat for ten hours before being rescued by another local – their son – in a ‘tinnie’. 85 year old neighbour Ray Dark wasn’t so lucky … he was swept away and is believed to have drowned.

On Sunday … a month after the flood event … I choppered to Wujal Wujal and Degarra with Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr to meet and document the couple and hear their story.

Clearly still highly traumatised, Michelle didn’t want to go right up to the shattered and still saturated remains of the house where she had spent much of her life … “I can’t do it, I can’t do it” she said on the edge of tears. I did manage a few portraits with their house in the background amongst the wreckage and destruction … until Michelle broke down in tears and fell into Bill’s chest. This was one of my very last frames of the few made of Bill and Michelle together that day.

Degarra is still waiting for the ADF to arrive to help Bill, Michelle and the rest of the community start recovery and begin the rest of their now vastly different lives.

Was a very emotional day …

Image © Brian Cassey, (the bottom image is an emotional ‘crop’) … the page 3 image © The Australian