A portrait of a Border mental health advocate will be featured at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017. The photograph of Annette Baker was taken by Chiltern professional photographer Natalie Ord.

Ord, who grew up in the Hills district and graduated from Galston High School, was inspired by the Baker family’s commitment to encourage conversations about suicide and mental health through the Winter Solstice & Big Splash events and their willingness to talk openly and candidly about suicide which was once a taboo topic.

She was humbled and impressed by the willingness of the border community to talk about suicide, so when the National Portrait Gallery called for entries for the portrait prize Annette was an obvious choice.

Natalie Ord
Natalie Ord

“I’d thought about entering the NPPP and I knew it had to be someone I admired. Annette kept coming to mind and one day she phoned me to commission some headshots for her Mental Health Prize and I saw it as a sign. I asked Annette and told her I wanted to contribute to the momentum that the Bakers had created of talking about suicide and mental health.”

“I wanted to capture Annette not only as an individual and member of the Baker family but as a champion of mental health”. Ord says “I needed to show her stoicism, acknowledge her pain but also show hope. The most obvious way was to photograph Annette in the Murray River – a metaphor for life”.

Ord photographed Annette last November in the Murray River with the help of Ord’s partner.

“The water was still very cold but the three of us were in the water up to our necks getting the shot. I had some expensive camera gear an inch above the water!”

And that time in the brisk Murray water paid off in two ways – Ord’s photograph is one of 49 finalists from nearly 3,000 entries and she’s had discussions with friends and family about mental health and suicide.

“I knew mental health is an issue that affects many in the community but I didn’t realise how many of my friends and their families were affected. It wasn’t until I told them about Annette’s portrait that we had those discussions. One of the most alarming things was the lack of access to appropriate mental health support services in regional areas and the disconnect between physical health and mental health treatment.”

Ord hopes that her portrait of Annette builds on what the Bakers have achieved in bringing suicide awareness to light and highlight the need for more mental health and suicide support services across the country, especially in regional areas.