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Our Portrait Prize 2015 Winner, Molly Harris, is sharing her best lesson in photography! 

What is the best lesson you ever learnt about photography? 

Molly says, 

“Documentary photography has always been my passion and I have a strong interest in community, culture and marginalisation. Photography allows me to explore these issues and tell my subjects stories.

Some of the things I have shot in the past have been confronting and many people ask me how I was able to put myself in these situations. Specifically in regards to my series ‘Closer to Heaven’ where I spent a lot of time shooting a group of female heroin addicts and prostitutes in the western suburbs of Adelaide. I was a student then, still studying photography at uni. I was stressed about what I was going to shoot that semester, I was feeling lost and I was desperate to shoot something real, challenge myself and produce a body of work I was proud of. I saw a lot of confronting things over the three months I spent with the women. Heroin deals, people shooting up, the women with their clients and one woman who almost overdosed. Although these moments were confronting, challenging, and made me feel uncomfortable the scariest moment for me was the first time I approached my subject. She was standing on the side of a busy road, waiting for clients. I had an idea and I had nothing to lose. I built up the courage to ask her for her time to do a portrait. As they say, the rest was history and she generously allowed me into her world. I got to shoot some amazing things but more importantly I got to develop my skills and build my confidence as a photographer. This would never have happened if I didn’t ask a stranger on a public street for a portrait.

I guess what I am trying to say is, that if you are passionate about an idea you sometimes just need to go for it. Ask a stranger to tell you their story. The worst thing they can say is no, and thats fine too. Most of the time though, if your respectful and genuine they will agree, or at least be curious and listen to what you have to say. There are a lot of people out there who desperately want to share their story, but just don’t have the means to do so. You could be their voice. 

You can find Molly’s work on her website and on facebook – Check it out!

All images © Molly Harris

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Head On Photo Awards 2024

Entries to the Head On Photo Awards 2024 open in May/June.

Image detail: Gary Ramage