Through the lens of faith

Veteran photographer John Casamento was 12 years old when he first picked up a camera. His father had bought the ‘box-Brownie-type’ for a trip back home to Italy to see his relatives. When his father returned, John began borrowing the camera. His older brother, Peter, had set up a makeshift darkroom in their Northcote family home where they would process films—neither of the boys wanted to wait a week for the photos to come back from the chemist, reports Kairos on the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne website.

At 16, John was given a four-year cadetship at the Herald and Weekly Times, publishers of the then Herald and The Sun-News Pictorial (now the Herald Sun). It was the beginning of a photography career that has now spanned more than 50 years and has seen John receive numerous national and international awards for his press photography.

John spent 36 years at The Sun and a further 16 years at News Ltd’s Leader newspaper group. ‘I’ve been on countless assignments covering major news events and involving people from all walks of life—from murderers to prime ministers, Hollywood stars and royalty,’ he said. ‘Many were happy stories and others illustrated human frailty in all its forms.’

He has been on the scene of police drug raids, dodged flying rocks among angry union protests, and has narrowly escaped a bushfire. John recalls one experience that is still with him many years later: ‘It was in the early hours of the morning and there had been a road fatality. The car had been hit from behind, and had exploded in flames.

The driver, a young woman, was incinerated. The police on duty were waiting for the police photographer to arrive to take the photos for the coronial inquest and when the photographer hadn’t arrived, I was asked to supply the photographs, which included having to photograph the young woman. It’s an image I can’t forget.’

Fortunately, there have also been countless moments of beauty and many amazing opportunities. John photographed Mother Teresa during her visit to Melbourne in 1975. He was the official photographer covering Pope John Paul II’s visit to Australia, Bangladesh, Singapore, Fiji, New Zealand and the Seychelles in 1986. In preparation for the Holy Father’s visit, he was also sent to Rome to produce several pictorial features on Pope John Paul II and the Vatican.

During the flight around Australia with the Holy Father, John and chief Vatican photographer Arturo Mari were called up to the Pope’s private compartment to take a photo of him with Cardinal Edward Clancy of Sydney. After doing so, the Pope’s secretary suggested that John sit down next to the Holy Father so he could have his own ‘memento’ photo.

‘As you can imagine, I did what I was told,’ said John. After the photo had been taken, John thought he should say something to the Pope, so he asked: ‘Holy Father, do you have a message that I can pass onto my children?’ The Holy Father thought for a moment, and putting his arms in an embrace gesture, replied: ‘Give them a hug and a kiss from me.’ And he repeated these words.

FULL STORY Through the lens of faith (CAM)

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