Goulburn Writers Fest Masthead

Canberra Photographer Shines

Molly McLaughlin

Canberra photographer Marina McDonald has a knack for focusing on the positives.

After fighting breast cancer and undergoing a year of gruelling treatment, a bilateral mastectomy was never going to hold her back.

“It hasn’t bothered me greatly,” Marina says. “I’ve always been quite comfortable in my skin and I’m very open. This is me and people can just get used to how I look now.”

While she always has always had a love of photography, Marina’s passion was rekindled in 2014 when she was asked to participate in the Canon Shine photography campaign by Lisa Wilkinson. The Today show host is a Canon ambassador and wanted to create an image that showed the complex and layered effects of breast cancer.

“The idea was to take a photo of something that matters to me,” explains Lisa. “I’ve always been struck by the incredible way women deal with breast cancer and there was something about Marina’s story that I really connected with. I wanted to show a strong, resilient mother just getting on with things.”

Marina was excited to be part of the project because she knew there was a need an alternative view. When she received her diagnosis, Marina found many clinical images of what a mastectomy would look like, but none that told a more personal story.

Marina McDonald by Lisa Wilkinson

Marina McDonald by Lisa Wilkinson

“Your head goes into a spin because you’re in survival mode thinking, ‘Am I going to get over this, how long have I got, my God its cancer,’” she says. “I wanted to find images that were more uplifting than these horrible, grey, anatomical images of a mastectomy. I thought you could show women through imagery that its okay, you can still be you, its just a chest, life goes on.”

The resulting photograph manages to capture all that and more, and challenges the viewer to consider their own response to such a daunting situation. The shoot marked a personal milestone for Marina and she remembers it as the first time she had done something purely for pleasure since beginning treatment.

“Seeing the portrait was a very moving moment,” Marina says. “At the time of the shoot, I’d just completed ten months of intensive treatment. To see the image that she’d taken, it really brought home what I’d just been through. It was confronting, but she’d done it in such a beautiful way that I got quite teary.”

After being photographed by Lisa, Marina began working on her own professional skills. She caught the attention of Canon and in a storybook twist recently photographed Lisa in return.

Lisa Wilkinson by Marina McDonald

Lisa Wilkinson by Marina McDonald

“I didn’t know how I would come up with a unique portrait of such a high profile personality,” Marina says. “But when I was talking to her, it became quite clear that she comes across as a very serene and in control person, but it’s amazing how busy she is.”

Of course Lisa is used to being in front of the camera, but this portrait was unique because it combined both her public persona and her personal perception of herself.

“It’s a curious thing, looking at how other people see you,” Lisa says. “It was a lot of fun to have the tables turned and she’s telling the story of my stupidly busy life, so she did capture me.”


Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin is new to Canberra and is attempting to prove to her friends that the capital city can be cool. This mostly involves frequently going out for brunch and then posting about it on social media, along with trekking up hills and around art galleries. She is half way through her uni degree but spends most of her time reading, writing and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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