Jay's story

19 November 2018

By Ben Whitmore

What I love about photography is that you just never know when a great photo is going to present itself. It could be a good photo technically, or it could just be a moment in time that is particularly significant. This is an example of the latter. This is the first time a smile has split across 17-year-old Jay's face for some time.

As a parent, Jay’s father Tim admitted that watching his son slowly withdrawing from the world was emotionally devastating – even trying many clinical treatments without much of a response. After exhausting a range of avenues, Jay’s parents decided to give a military-inspired Leadership Program some thought. Before the program, Jay confessed to being scared of the world, suffering from anxiety and lacking the motivation to propel him through everyday life. Consequently, Jay admitted that he definitely wasn’t prepared, either mentally or physically, for the challenges presented to him but that he made a conscious decision to tackle them head-on.

By the final day, the magnitude of Jay’s transformation had become truly apparent with every word he spoke. This is a young man who was seriously lacking self-assurance and drive, now walking around with the confidence of a new man and the motivation to take control of his life. “I came out of the program feeling like a new person – more motivated, less anxious and scared of the world and just ready to take it head-on,” Jay explained.

This portrait was taken after a pivotal day on the program. The participants are taken to a commando training facility and face their fear of heights, trust and self-disbelief. This moment was one where Jay found something in himself that he didn't know he had. 12 months later, this moment has proved to be a turning point for Jay who is still inspired, still backing himself and most importantly, still smiling.

I've never been so grateful to be able to click off a frame as this one.