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Emotional story behind famous Fred Hollows photograph revealed

22/01/2019By Myles Hume
The photographer behind an iconic photograph of legendary Australian ophthalmologist Fred Hollows has only now revealed the image’s inspiring background.

In a recent interview, Mr Michael Amendolia spoke of the severe illness Hollows suffered away from the camera during his 1992 trip to Vietnam.

Recalling the expedition to document Hollows training a team of local doctors in Hanoi, he said the photo – which has since appeared in countless publications and marketing campaigns – remained poignant since it was the ophthalmologist’s final trip.

“I think the reason the photograph was chosen, and this is just my interpretation, is how Fred himself looks in it,” he told

“He’s this gruff-looking character, a big man, who has a softness in his face and in his eyes. He was very ill at the time and in a vulnerable part of his life. I remember him coughing up blood and being on morphine some days, such was the extent of his pain.”

Hollows died in the ensuing months after a three-year cancer battle.

“But Fred wanted to be there. It was something he wanted to be doing. He was that sort of character who thrived on helping others and ignored his own needs,” Amendolia said.

Amendolia said he was fortuitous in capturing the image of Hollows examining the eye of eight-year-old boy Tran Van Giap, whose desperate father thrust him forward.

“I was leaning down, snapping away, another one and another one. I didn’t know that I had got something really special.”

Photo Caption: The now-iconic photo of Fred Hollows examining eight-year-old Vietnamese boy Tran Van Giap taken in 1992. Photo Credit: Michael Amendolia/The Fred Hollows Foundation

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