Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Banquet Portrait

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Whilst working on the picture desk in the Media Centre for the organisers, I was asked to bring a suit. I was given about a half hour’s notice that this was the gig …

Photographing 50 Kings Queens Presidents & Prime Ministers for the “Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Banquet Portrait”.

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CHOGM was scheduled to take place in Brisbane during 2001.

9/11 created security concerns for the 54 heads of governments including Her Majesty. New venues were found at Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in 2002.

The Hyatt Coolum, later bought by billionaire Clive Palmer, hosted the CHOGM Coolum Media Centre. The military & police presence made the compound the safest place on the planet that week.

I’m told that the image has a title. “Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Banquet Portrait” Not that I’m looking for one, I’m a republican * and bemused at scoring the assignment as Photo Assistant to the Defence Force photographer who clicked the button. The power of volunteering is enormous.

Half an hour before Their Majesties arrived, I first saw the backdrop not covering to the edges … a disaster. Once I exhausted pleas with the set guys, I resolved myself to photoshopping the curtains in later.

Technically the photograph is the same as school class portraits, 17 or so across three rows. 17 people shoulder on gives some scale to the size of the room (not very big).

As the world leaders arrived, I tried to blend into the wallpaper and avert my eyes …

I found myself up the back of the room with the black guys saying things like “I’m the only one here without my own country”

That quickly became where the party was happening, so Prince Phil the Greek clocked me and made a beeline.

As our hands went up to shake, my Prime Minister stepped between us. That didn’t go unnoticed by anyone.

The Prince and I were looking over the shorter, bowing intruder. He winked and said: “Organising this lot must be like herding cats”

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard bowed his head, wrung his hands and said “Thank you Your Majesty. But please stop teasing me”

The black leaders were as confounded & amused as me.  One clinched his fist, a few eye rolls. I had to take a step back in case I started something – anything!

The Prince & I nodded and he was happy that he was up to his useful reputation.

After the press photographers were ushered outside, a few shots were made using a 5 megabyte Nikon – the best they had in 2002.

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republican * Not the USA Republican type

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