Brett Wortman has visited Australia Zoo many times to photograph the Irwins.
Brett Wortman has visited Australia Zoo many times to photograph the Irwins.

Lives and pictures: our photographer's goodbye after 13 yrs

IT'S true what everyone tells me, a press photographer has an interesting job. I meet a lot of people from all walks of life and it's their stories that linger in my mind as I contemplate my last day on the road for the Sunshine Coast Daily.

For 13 years I've been privileged to document life on the Coast.

My image library is full of amazing people who all have their stories to tell and I'm proud to have been witness to the history of our region as it has unfolded.

Perhaps you are one of the 45,000 people I estimate I've photographed.

I've met prime ministers, premiers, mayors, business leaders, sporting heroes, celebrities, Australians of the year and super models. Maybe you are the homeless person, battling pensioner, unemployed father, cancer sufferer, grieving mum, selfless community volunteer or angry ratepayer I've met.

Brett Wortman.
Brett Wortman. Brett Wortman

What I have learnt in my job is that people are either givers or takers regardless of their place in society.

There are so may inspiring people out there. I've met a lot of them and often they aren't the people you expect.

And it doesn't matter who they are, everyone wants to look good in a photo and we as the photographer have that power.

When I came to realize this I became much more at ease with my job.

I've been an uninvited witness to car crashes, house fires, tragic accidents and crime. We see a lot of sadness and I often think of the people involved and wonder how their lives have unfolded since their brief and sometimes unwelcome appearance in the daily news.

We are also there in moments of extreme joy, like at sporting grand finals when the final whistle blows and the tears and champagne flows. These emotional events are the highlight of people's sporting careers and they are great to cover.

On reflection there aren't particular photos that stick in my mind, but rather the people behind the images.

I covered the Daniel Morcombe story from day one when we were sent out to photograph SES crews searching bushland around Palmwoods. I came to know Bruce and Denise as they faced the media determined to find answers and hopefully their missing son. I attended the public memorial as we all had to accept that Daniel wasn't coming back and I still meet them as they keep their son's memory alive through the Daniel Morcombe Foundation.

Seeing through my lens the pain in Denise's eyes will never leave me.

I met Steve Irwin several times and always left with a smile on my face feeling like I had just survived a cyclone. I was shattered like everybody when he died and I was privileged to have been one of only two photographers allowed in to his public memorial.

I met Jessica Watson as a 14-year-old with a dream. I watched her sail away on her amazing adventure and I shed a tear when she sailed back to harbour to an incredible homecoming.

Then there is Sue Merrotsy, whose son Jose suffered a heart attack at 15 leaving him with severe brain damage. As a single mother of three, she was looking forward to her youngest finishing school and to life beyond mothering, only to face a future with Jose requiring full-time care for the rest of his life. Or Nambour Special School mum, Mary Taylor, who shared with me through tears the sad reality of life with a special needs child and how the community spirit of the Island Charity Swim had made her and other families feel embraced and supported.

Regional newspapers give a voice to people like Sue and Mary every day and I most love seeing the positive influence the media can have.

Thanks for letting me be a part of it and as we say in the game, that's a wrap.

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