Two Australian photographers, James Pozarik and Russell James, are among the recipients of the Queen’s Birthday 2022 Honours List for their contributions to photography.
Both Pozarik and James are awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia
(OAM), an honour acknowledging outstanding achievements and service. They join the likes of Richard Bennett, Jeff Moorfoot, Moshe Rosenzveig, Gael Newton, Gavin Blue, Alex Cearns, Dr David Malin, and other photographers who are are recipients from the last five years.
James ‘Jimmy’ Pozarik
Pozarik, a New York-born former staff photojournalist for Time magazine, has volunteered as a photographer at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick since 2012.
His role is to capture photos of sick kids on wards, in clinics, operating theatres, intensive care, and emergency departments. During his time in the hospital, Pozarik has interacted with thousands of patients and their families, with the goal of providing visual insight into their world.
With parental consent and the hospital’s blessing, Pozarik has produced a powerful body of work that showcases candid moments of children, their families, and medical staff.
It’s the kind of work that can break even the toughest photojournalist, and Pozarik has undoubtedly bore witness to some heartbreaking moments.
‘I’ve seen some things no one should see and heard things that no person should hear,’ he told The Daily Telegraph in 2019. ‘When you start knowing the families, you get close to them and they trust you. You can see that in the photos. As a person, this job has changed me profoundly, as a photojournalist, you’re trained to not get emotional.
‘Still, I would fight back tears every time I do one of these shoots.’
And while some stories end in tragedy, others have a happy ending.
‘I never anticipated the crushing emotional impact seeing kids again would have on me.’ he said. ‘To walk into the home of an eight-year old who seven years ago was on life support and not expected to survive, and to now see a happy, active, healthy child is ridiculously overwhelming.’
In collaboration with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, Pozarik revisited 25 patients he had previously photographed to share their story. This culminated in a 2019 exhibition, Then and Now, 50 images which showed at the hospital.
The Perth native started his professional life as a cop. It’s unlikely he foresaw a career change that would result in him interacting with the Clintons, super models, celebrities, and famous musicians.
That was until a trip to Sweden threw him among a vibrant photography culture.
‘I’m about 29 or so and started to work around photographers,’ he told The West. ‘I would sweep the floors, work in their darkroom … I said “this is what I want to do”. It took about another six years before I actually generated a dollar. Then it started..’
His big break was a 1997 Bahamas photoshoot with Tyra Bank, with a picture ending up on cover of the coveted Sports Illustrated (SI) swimwear edition. It was a milestone moment for James, a ‘nervous young photographer’ according to SI, as well as the modelling industry which never had an African American appear on the front cover of a major magazine.
Last month James photographed Bill and Hillary Clinton.