It was a special moment captured in time.
An iconic photograph that epitomised last year's horrific fire season.
The then NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons pinning a Commissioner's Commendation Medal onto 19-month-old Harvey Keaton, at his father Geoff's funeral.
Mr Keaton and fellow firefighter Andrew O'Dwyer died on December 19 en route to the Green Wattle Creek blaze in south-west Sydney, when their fire truck hit a fallen tree.
James' heartbreaking image has taken out the 2020 NSW Resilience Australia Awards photographic section.
"It's a huge honour," the well-known local former Rural Fire Service employee said.
The photo took out the people's choice award section on the Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience (AIDR) website and will now progress to the national finals which will be selected by a panel of judges and announced in December.
The Resilient Australia Awards is a nation-wide program to recognise and promote initiatives that strengthen community disaster resilience.
Since 2000, the awards have showcased innovation and exemplary practice across Australia; celebrating achievements that might otherwise go unseen, and inspiring others to build greater disaster resilience in their own communities.
"It [the funeral ceremony] was a hard day," said Mr Morris who was part of the RFS for 16 years, many of them in the Shoalhaven and 10 years where he was a RFS staff member.
I was shaking at the time and had tears welling up in my eyes but the outcome was superb.James Morris
"Any time we lose one of our own is tough. We knew there was going to be lots of media attention around Geoff's funeral.
"The family was a bit hesitant to have a large media contingent there, so the numbers were restricted and I was asked to take photographs of the service."
With a strong passion for photography James was happy to help out.
"It was hard I had known Geoff."
Any time a firefighter is killed in the line of duty, the family of the fallen is presented with a Commission's Commendation Medal for service and bravery, a firefighter's helmet and NSW RFS flag."
"Knowing what was coming I wanted to capture Commissioner Fitzsimmons presenting those to the family," James said.
"What we didn't know was that Geoff's partner Jess had made a special uniform for Harvey, complete with his father's Deputy Captain rank.
"Harvey had wandered around the service and had come over to me a few times looking at my camera and wanting to take photos. We built up a bit of a rapport.
"I captured a number of special images from that day but this one was just poignant.
"It was heart wrenching to watch - it was very surreal."
He said the outcome, his beautiful photo of the commissioner and Harvey, was more "by luck than anything else".
"It was a sombre moment and I didn't really know what I'd captured," he said.
Despite admitting to be "shaking at the time" and having "tears welling up" in his eyes - the outcome was superb.
"We posted the image onto our RFS Facebook page and things just went crazy from there," he said.
"It's become an iconic image but I'm also mindful of what it represents.
"It captures that special moment but is also an image that conjures up a lot of memories and emotions, and some sad ones, particularly for Geoff's family and his fellow brigade members.
"I hope it's a moment Harvey can look back on in time and appreciate."
He admitted he had initially been reluctant to enter the photo in the awards.
"I didn't want it to bring back memories for people," he said.
"But I was told if I didn't enter the image others would on my behalf."
James is well-known in local circles for his long-time work, particularly with the media, with the NSW RFS.
He worked in the Shoalhaven in operational, media and community liaison roles from August 2011 to May 2017.
Up until September 21 this year he worked at RFS Headquarters in Sydney in the media unit, providing information about an untold number of fires across the state.
He has since taken up a new role with the ACT Emergency Services Agency.
"It's a new job and a good change," he said.
"I've been lucky to have worked in a variety of roles within the RFS.
"The last four years back at state operations headquarters has been special and I've got to work with some very special people.
"I've got to work with and liaise with higher level executives such as the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, through to our many volunteers. I've been exposed and worked closely with the Minister's office and the Premier and even Prime Minister during last season's disasters.
"I was deployed across numerous areas and was able to have close contact with families whose members unfortunately paid the ultimate sacrifice."
He said last season was an exceptionally challenging fire season.
"It was a very long season," he said. "We started in July in the western part of NSW.
"And while there was no property under threat there, it just continued and built up in the North Coast and Mid North Coast into places like Tenterfield and Armidale.
"Then it headed down the coast through Sydney, down into the South Coast, the Shoalhaven and then into Snowy Valley.
"It was a long process - long days and nights - words can't describe the season it was.
"It was a different kind of pressure. Not so much physical exertion but massive mental exertion.
"I just remember we had so many fires - at one stage we had 17 at emergency level, a number at watch and act and advice levels - it was our job to provide the community updates.
"We were all doing multiple interviews and providing grabs across multiple media outlets and mediums.
"We were providing them across the state and then later on midseason we started to get more and more international attention and we were doing interviews across the world with Fox News in the US, the BBC and outlets from across Europe.
"It was a big undertaking given the level of interest, a huge commitment but one that needed to happen."
He says his motivation and inspiration comes from when he first moved to the Shoalhaven as a seven-year-old.
"We moved to Sussex Inlet in 1995 - my first experience with fire came from the Highlands fire in 2001 and 2002 that threatened our region," he said.
"I remember suffering a high level of anxiety. I remember at the time sitting, listening to the tones of Graham French on Radio 2ST and Power FM and his constant updates letting us know we would be alright.
"It was scary.
"I was about 14 by then and suffered pretty bad anxiety after that - our house looked north towards Tomerong and any time I'd see smoke in that area I'd suffer anxiety."
But with help he managed to overcome that and by the age of 16 he joined a friend who had joined the Rural Fire Service.
"Mum and Dad couldn't believe it, especially after what I'd been through," he said.
"I didn't give it a second thought, I just did it.
"But it did wonders for me - it helped me get over my anxiety and use that fear and anxiety to be able to pass a message on to other people in similar situations.
"It's what made my passion for the job and want to help people.
"Especially in the media, being able to provide the public with information. Provide a level of knowledge to the community and a measured reassurance that we're there and know how they feel. Make sure to be that voice of reason and assure them, provided they do the right things, they have a chance to protect themselves and make it through some disastrous situations."
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