Liam Connolly has a tendency to be the star of the show.
Photographer Sarah Rhodes first saw him on stage at StGiles all abilities art group Studio Space’s end of year show, and immediately wanted to photograph him.
“He was just fantastic,” she said.
“He shone. He took over the whole stage.”
She then found out he was an identical twin, with an equally charming brother, Rohan Connolly.
Both boys have a shock of blonde hair, disarming blue eyes and shy smiles, and both are on the autism spectrum.
They are mirror images of each other, even down to the fact that one is right-handed and one is left-handed.
And they will now be viewed by people from all over the world; those visiting the National Gallery in Canberra to see the images from 40 finalists in this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize.
In her photo of the pair, Rhodes wanted to show what the world is like for someone living on the autism spectrum.
“I was playing around with multiple exposures, using a large format camera,” she said.
“I put Rohan in first, took that picture, kept him there, moved the camera a little bit, took him out, put Liam in, and then took the next picture – so there’s movement, but it looks jarring.
“So their faces are perfectly exposed, but the world around them isn’t.”
Rhodes is also the teacher of PhotograMe, an all-abilities photography class run through StGiles and Studio Space.
As well as learning skills and techniques behind the camera, students also have the opportunity to direct her in taking images of themselves.
“It’s a way of communicating,” Studio Space artistic director Gerard Lane said.
“That’s what drew us to wanting to do a photography program. It’s another version of how to communicate.
“Sometimes ideas can be quite hard to verbalise, but we’re actually dealing with a visual medium.”
Using art to communicate is something Liam and Rohan have both experienced: as Liam puts it, “the ideas are all in my head, I just have to get them out.”
Rohan is a student in media studies at Launceston College, where he developed a trailer for a movie he imagined – with a plot that “might be a bit based on fact,” he laughed.
“It’s a bit complicated, but I like complicated ideas,” he said.
Liam is a keen participant in Studio Space’s drama program, where he has invented a superhero character called Green With Envy, as well as picking up some awards in his Newstead College photography class.
Rhodes said she hopes to continue working with them both, behind the camera.
- To see Sarah Rhodes’ photo of Liam and Rohan Connolly in the National Portrait Prize, see examiner.com.au.