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Friday, 20 July 2007

Photographer beats leukaemia

By Darren Stones – Freelance Photojournalist

“All was sweet with the world, but someone decided to unplug me from my home internet connection and reconnect me to a chemotherapy machine.”

Joe Mortelliti - September 2006

Professional photographer, RedBubble member, and four-wheel drive enthusiast, Joe Mortelliti, faced a life-or-death fork in the road on March 1 2007. His choice was a stark one - commence chemotherapy or probably die within three weeks. The sudden diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, was about to send the 57-year-old Geelong resident on a journey which he had made no preparation for.

“Having never been on medication, or ever really sick, it was hard to accept that something was really wrong,” said Joe.

On February 28 2007 at 4.00pm, Joe was blood tested due to an old foot injury which had become sore and swollen. At 9.00am on March 1 2007, Joe received an urgent phone call from his doctor, who directed him to proceed to the Geelong Hospital immediately, as a bed was ready and waiting for him.

During the subsequent four months, Joe underwent three rounds of intensive chemotherapy and is back in the field doing what he loves – photography.

The Mortelliti family have rallied around Joe in recent times, and in particular his wife Marion who has helped speed his recovery.

“Since getting out of hospital, she (Marion) has driven me to locations I want to photograph, and helped carry my gear,” said Joe.

“I could not have photographed without her assistance, as I’m only good for an hour or two and then run out of energy.”

Recently, Joe and Marion explored the nearby historic town of Queenscliff, which provided Joe the opportunity to skilfully capture through his lens the atmosphere and scenes rare to the area.

During his period of treatment, Joe formed an alliance with the Australian-based company, RedBubble.

RedBubble is a vibrant online art gallery and creative community that enables artists the opportunity to exhibit, discuss and sell their works.

To date, Joe has established an extensive portfolio of over 300 photographs on RedBubble, and become an active member of that community.

Recently, Joe collaborated with fellow RedBubble member, Cliff Vestergaard, on a work titled ‘The King’, which Cliff has made available for sale.

Ever mindful of encouraging his peers, Joe advises that landscape photography is “all about composition and light … so do not get hung up on gear too much.”

Joe Mortelliti - September 2006

Joe’s doctors are confident he’ll make a full recovery, but precautions are being undertaken to secure his continuing health. He’s been matched with his brother’s bone marrow in the event a bone marrow transplant is required.

With a realistic view towards life, Joe says “...I’m getting stronger, and have already booked for a short trip to Wilsons Promontory in August (2007), and then nine days in the Flinders Ranges in September (2007).”

“As I was in and out of hospital during the treatment and side effect cycles, I traded my Toyota Prado on a new Land Cruiser,” said Joe.

“I did get some strange looks from family and friends. So I told them that I discussed it with the doctors, and said to them that they had to get me through all this, as it would be very embarrassing to have a brand new, and rather expensive, Land Cruiser in the driveway and not be around to drive it!”

Joe Mortelliti’s outstanding portfolio of Australian landscape images can be viewed and purchased online at RedBubble.

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Darren Stones