Capturing Fairfield – A life of care

Looking back at high school, I’d always remembered Elizabeth as a vibrant, friendly and beautiful person. I remember fondly how our groups would interact, but it wasn’t till a reunion 10 years on that we would reconnect and I would find out just how beautiful she is both inside and out.

As we caught up on the time that had past, I would find out that with the conclusion of high school she would go on to study psychology and youth work. It wasn’t long before realising that this path would only lead her to her passion – youth mental health.

Following her heart, she travelled the world to experience first-hand how other cultures viewed the taboo topic. Invigorated and with a head of steam, she began a campaign to tackle the complex issue. The results were inspiring and she spearheaded an alternative way of engaging the youth – it didn’t go unnoticed and in 2010 was awarded a government grant to continue her work. Work that to this day is being implemented around surrounding suburbs.

A hard worker, she would work up to 50 hours a week with the values instilled in her from her amazing parents. Her parents both volunteer in the local Braeside Hospital, where Elizabeth would also follow suit. While most of us would be enjoying our cosy lifestyles, the Harlow’s would spend the weekend lovingly caring for patients in their spare time. Three lifetimes of care.

It was during her volunteer work that she would be nominated to represent Braeside in the Cancer Council NSW dance event “Stars of South Western Sydney”. Given her already enormous workload one wouldn’t be blamed for backing out, she however saw it as a great opportunity to raise both awareness and funds for charity. For Elizabeth, it was an absolute honour and she has worked diligently on her dance routine, there is of course a deeper reason for her to compete.

Elizabeth’s aunt was diagnosed with Myeloma. Cancer which reported has over 400,000 living with the disease between 2008-2012 and is estimated to have 138,000 new cases to be diagnosed for 2018. While her aunt battles for her health, Elizabeth has been doing her part to raise funds for the dance event giving credence to her Instagram handle @wonderlizzy.

When I first heard about the event, it was through one of Elizabeth’s Facebook posts. I was surprised to find that she was actually volunteering at the same hospital as my mother; I donated and shared the post. I’ve donated to Cancer Council NSW in the past, as my niece was a survivor of leukaemia it was the least I could do. Cancer affects many, and I would assume this hits home for people around Australia.

A few months pass and I receive and email from Fairfield City Council, Capture Fairfield would again run this year. It’s a competition that’s run with multiple photography themes that celebrates the city, its diversity and contributions to society. This year the topics are as follows:

Theme 1: The Power of Community Conservation
Photographs must relate to the natural environment of Fairfield City. This includes natural landscapes and waterscapes, flora and fauna, as well as conservation projects supported by the community.

Theme 2: The Power of Community Celebration
Photographs must reflect Fairfield City, its meeting places, celebrations and diverse communities. This includes local life, people and places, as well as events held in Fairfield City.

Theme 3: The Power of Community Commitment
Photographs must reflect the great work of our community volunteers and community service workers in Fairfield City. This includes examples of teamwork, generosity and giving.

I’ll admit at first I thought about taking a portrait of my mother, but swiftly decided not to enter.

Then I recalled Elizabeth’s post, I had hoped that if I won that I could donate the prize money to her event. I messaged Elizabeth and held my breath; we hadn’t spoken since our reunion back in 2012. A day later, she confirmed that she was on board. We began to plan the shoot and with the help of a wonderful woman named Kinita from Atinik Beauty (@atinikbeauty), we now had a hair and make-up artist who was willing to also donate her time.

We planned the shoot for Elizabeth but plans changed on the day when her parents were included in the shoot, a move which I believe made the shots. An idea that came from Elizabeth herself. We originally planned to shoot with her aunty but unfortunately due to her treatments would mean her immune system was not up to the task. It was both my pleasure and an honour to work with such a talented make-up artist and a generous family.

Elizabeth’s achievements far exceed that of Capturing Fairfield and the fruits of her labour bearing for many youth, it is my hope that in taking part in the competition will gain recognition for her work and much needed publicity for her in her charity efforts. This year, I did not intend on entering the photo competition as I believed that winning the previous year would diminish my chances and I’m grateful I had changed my mind.

Whether you decide to donate to Elizabeth, another contestant or even to Cancer Council NSW at a later date, I hope my images serve to capture Fairfield as her story has captured and inspired me.

To donate to Elizabeth:
https://starsofsydneysw2018.everydayhero.com/au/elizabeth-harlow

To donate to another contestant:
https://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/starsofsydneysw2018/our-stars

To donate to the Cancer Council:
https://secure.fundraising.cancer.org.au/site/SPageServer?pagename=Donate

To simply share – would be an incredible blessing.

Photographer: Asher Mendigorin
Photographer: Asher Mendigorin