“the volunteer drivers are all so friendly and pleasant, so the trip goes quickly”.
Pearl Goldman says of the Patient Transport Service.
The first time Pearl Goldman posed for Norman Lindsay, he exclaimed, “Oh, I do love your devilish eyebrows”… and their friendship grew from there. He later described her as “one of the best nudes I’ve ever painted” – just one of the many feathers in Pearl’s impressive cap. This model, muse, actress, showgirl and New York theatre royalty is no stranger to the limelight, having graced stage, screen and just about every other artistic medium in existence over her action-packed 97 years.
So when freelance photographer, Greta Costello, came knocking, the prospect of posing for yet another camera sat pretty comfortably with Pearl. This time though, it wasn’t only Pearl’s beauty that positioned her in a photographer’s crosshairs. Having been diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma, Pearl is one of the many community members who benefits from the Leukaemia Foundation’s Patient Transport Service – the subject of a photography project commissioned by GM Holden.
The Patient Transport Service is staffed by a team of dedicated volunteer drivers who ferry patients and their families to and from appointments and hospital visits free of charge. Having proudly sponsored the Leukaemia Foundation since 2002, Holden has provided 17 custom-branded VF Commodores this year alone to facilitate the service.
While the goal is to remove the stress of transportation, parking and associated costs for people living with blood cancer, the Patient Transport Service has also cultivated some unique relationships between patients and drivers, a number of whom have been commuting together for years. Holden’s Community Support team commissioned Greta to create a series of images celebrating these stories.
The project was one Greta was keen to take on. “I have a passion for portrait photography as I believe that through this particular medium, identity can be explored and shared,” said Greta.
“I have observed that the act of creating a portrait can help that person feel pride in who they are and the situation they find themselves in at that point in their life. While that situation may be challenging, as in the case of our subjects, through posing for a portrait one is granted the acknowledgement that they deserve. In short, the portrait photograph has the power to engender pride, power and ownership over challenging moments in life.”
Greta’s ‘environmental portraits’ feature patients with their families, elements of their home and surrounding environments, and of course their volunteer drivers. Pearl’s relationship with driver Bevan Griffiths is one of six such relationships explored in the exhibition currently on display at Holden’s Port Melbourne headquarters.
“I was humbled and surprised by the eagerness of our subjects to share their stories,” said Greta, “both through our conversations and their willingness to pose for a portrait photograph.
“When asked to reflect on the driving service, all of the patients and their families expressed that the service offered a sense of relief. Across the board, that feeling of relief is multi-faceted – the practical relief of not having to drive, to find a car to drive, to pay for petrol or parking, and the emotional relief of being able to share a difficult experience with a sensitive person outside the family unit.
“The experience of having a portrait created can be daunting,” admitted Greta, “and it was most courageous of Violet, Paul, Pearl, Joseph, Matilda and Kevin to agree to participate. I am grateful to have been involved in this project. Like many of the drivers, I have watched loved ones suffer with health issues and the associated social stigmas which often accompany them. I think it is wonderful that GM Holden and the Leukaemia Foundation have not only offered such a valuable, practical service, but have also instigated this creative photography project that offers the individuals involved a platform to share their journey with the broader community.”
Following the exhibition’s two-week residency at Holden HQ, it will travel to Holden sites around the country as well as being shared on our Instagram and Facebook pages. The Holden Community Support team thanks Greta, the Leukaemia Foundation, and all participants in the project – we hope you enjoy the images as much as we do.
Team Holden will also be supporting the Leukaemia Foundation at Light the Night on Friday 9 October, to help families affected by leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and related blood disorders. Visit leukaemia.org.au to find out how you can support the Leukaemia Foundation.
“The rewards for me have been immeasurable”.
Volunteer driver Gerry says
“through my conversations with the Holden team and staff at the Leukaemia Foundation, it became apparent how important this service is, not just for logistical reasons but more specifically for the relationships that are generated between drivers and patients”.
Freelance photographer Greta Costello says.