Shoot the Hairdresser 2014 finalist: Alex Sturman

Head Space by Alex Sturman.

Head Space by Alex Sturman.

Head Space is a finalist in Shoot the Hairdresser, a photographic competition aimed at raising awareness about mental illness.

The photograph, by Alex Sturman,  is the first of 15 finalists in the Highlights for Hope 2014 photographic competition, Shoot the Hairdresser.

The photograph, by Alex Sturman, is the first of 15 finalists in the Highlights for Hope 2014 photographic competition, Shoot the Hairdresser.

Photographers were asked to collaborate with an Illawarra hairdresser to create a photo which paid tribute to the hairdressing industry.

The competition is part of the Light and Hope fund-raising campaign to keep open the doors of the Light and Hope Mental Health Clubhouse in Burelli Street, Wollongong.

Photographers are vying for more than $4000 in prizes with the finalists featured at a corporate evening at the Novotel Northbeach on September 30 and at a pop-up gallery in Wollongong Central during the first week of October. Judges of this year's competition are Wollongong City Gallery program director John Monteleone, Mercury pictorial editor Kirk Gilmour, award-winning hairdresser Peter Thomson, photographer Steen Barnes, Novotel Northbeach general manager Walter Immoos and Access lawyer Graham Lancaster.

The 15 finalists will be featured in Good Life during September.

Name of photograph: Head Space.

Photographer name: Alex Sturman.

Salon name: The Hair Lounge.

Models: Nicola Rees and Isobel Foye (mother and daughter), both hairdressers.

Makeup: Backstage Tan & Beauty.

Today's finalist sponsored by: South Coast Private Mental Health Hospital.

Hairdresser's comments:

Accepting Alex's invitation to help raise awareness for such an important issue was a pleasure.

The Highlights for Hope campaign is a wonderful way to open the conversation and increase our understanding of mental illness.

It affects so many people around us and we need to get more comfortable talking about it.

We're pleased with our entry. First glances rarely tell the full story. This shot reminds us to slow down and take a closer look.

We're grateful to Nadine and the girls from Backstage Tan & Beauty, who were keen to help us look like plastic.

Photographer's comments:

I was inspired to enter Shoot the Hairdresser as I'm keen to develop my photography skills plus my hairdresser is a good friend who is fabulously creative and I've always wanted to work with her. The idea happened by accident while we were shooting other ideas. Nicola suggested it and I instantly loved the idea so we went with it.

We tried to capture that we get lost in a crowd but we are all different when you take an interest and look closely.

We also realised the irony of the heads when dealing with mental illness. It's often stated that hairdressers are "psychiatrists" and I do believe they have a great understanding in human behaviour.

Technical specs of photo: Canon 5D MKII, Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens, ISO 1250 f/3.5 1/125sec, 2 daylight soft box continuous lights, black backdrop, edited in AdobeLightroom. The challenges faced were the difference in skin and the plastic dummies for lighting plus crushing the blacks of their shirts was essential to keep the focus on the heads.

■  The Illawarra Mercury is sponsoring the competition which raises money for the Light and Hope Mental Health Clubhouse. For more details about Highlights for Hope and the Light and Hope Mental Health Clubhouse, go to highlightsforhope.org.au.

Highlights for Hope finalist: Paul Pennell

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