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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Saint Catherine (Catherine Hamlin)

2006
Nigel Brennan

type C photograph on paper (frame: 85 cm x 113 cm, image: 59 cm x 88 cm)

Catherine Hamlin AC (née Nicholson, 1924–2020) graduated from the University of Sydney in 1946 and went to work at Crown Street Women’s Hospital, where she met fellow doctor Reginald Hamlin. In 1958, the couple answered an advertisement in the Lancet calling for doctors to establish a midwifery school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There they developed a surgical technique to repair horrifying – though relatively common – cases of obstetric fistula, opening a clinic dedicated to this endeavour in 1961. In 1974, they established the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Since then, the hospital and its offshoots have provided free treatment for more than 50,000 women. Following her husband's death in 1993, Hamlin expanded the work of the hospital, lobbying and travelling extensively to raise funds. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is now a healthcare network with more than 550 Ethiopian staff servicing six fistula hospitals, a rehabilitation centre and the Hamlin College of Midwives.

Photo-journalist Nigel Brennan photographed Hamlin in 2006 at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, at the entrance to the operating theatre named for her late husband. Three years later Brennan was taken as a hostage by militants in Somalia, who held him captive for 14 months. He later returned to Ethiopia, taking photographs for a calendar to support Hamlin’s work.

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2007 Finalist

Purchased 2008
© Nigel Brennan

Artist and subject

Nigel Brennan (age 34 in 2006)

Catherine Hamlin (age 82 in 2006)

Subject professions

Health and medicine

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Lindy Lee - Birth and Death, 2006 by Robert Scott-Mitchell
Lindy Lee - Birth and Death, 2006 by Robert Scott-Mitchell
Lindy Lee - Birth and Death, 2006 by Robert Scott-Mitchell
Lindy Lee - Birth and Death, 2006 by Robert Scott-Mitchell

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2007

Previous exhibition, 2007

Photography is the most pervasive and popular medium for portraiture and makes a natural fit with the Gallery, being a natural extension of the Gallery's longstanding commitment to photography as a contemporary portrait medium.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency