PARER, DAMIEN (1912–44)
Damien Parer attended Catholic schools in New South Wales and Victoria before completing his apprenticeship in photography in 1930–33. He worked until 1940 as a studio photographer and cameraman on feature films, including for Charles Chauvel. One of his employers was Max Dupain.
With the outbreak of World War II, Parer sailed with the Second AIF to the Middle East as a photographer with the Department of Information (DOI). Feats such as filming advancing soldiers at Derna in Libya made him well known. Japan’s entry into the war resulted in the best-known period of Parer’s brief career: his filming of Australian activities in Papua and New Guinea. His record of the fighting on the Kokoda Track in late 1942 was shown in the documentary Kokoda Front Line!, which was distributed worldwide. Ken G. Hall, the film’s producer, received an Academy Award for it in 1943.
Parer’s footage was used in several newsreels, but after a series of disputes with the DOI, Parer resigned in 1943. He joined Paramount News— one of several Australians to team up with US media organisations during the war. He was killed during the American assault on Peleliu in the Palau Group on 17 September 1944.
Parer’s images of Australian troops—especially from Papua New Guinea—are some of the best-known photographs of Australians at war, displaying his gifts of visual composition and shot selection. As an Australian combat photographer, his fame is only rivaled by that of Neil Davis, also killed while filming; however, as Davis rarely worked with Australian soldiers, Parer’s images are far more embedded in the Australian psyche.
Parer’s son, Damien Robert Parer, who was born after his father’s death, became a film producer.
REF: N. McDonald, War Cameraman (1994).