Confronting portrait of burn victim wins top prize in Fremantle International Portrait competition

‘Robbie’, the subject of Steve Wise’s portrait, suffered burns to 95 per cent of his body when he was four.
‘Robbie’, the subject of Steve Wise’s portrait, suffered burns to 95 per cent of his body when he was four.

STEVE Wise’s confronting portrait of childhood burn victim ‘Robbie’ has beaten some of the best in the world to win the 2015 Fremantle International Portrait Prize.

The Greenwood photographer was inspired by 28-year-old Robbie’s story, describing it as one of pain, struggle, continuing rehabilitation, courage and strength.

“Robbie was playing with matches in his bedroom when he was four years old,” Mr Wise said.

“Things went wrong and he received burns to 95 per cent of his body. He was in a coma for nine weeks and in hospital for 2½ years.

“He’s just like you and me; he enjoys a beer and a cigarette; a chat and a laugh.

“He has plans to talk to kids about fire safety and other burns patients about his story and recovery.”

The portrait was chosen over more than 1800 entries… 2013 winner Goran Jovic of Croatia came second with a black and white study of a shy young girl in Africa.

Wise was presented with his prizes – $5000 in cash, a trophy and a framed commemorative certificate at a presentation ceremony with almost 200 guests.

Catalogues containing the full ‘back stories’ of all the images are for sale at the Moores Contemporary Art Gallery in Fremantle.