Damien Peter Parer

Damien Peter Parer (1 August 1912 – 17 September 1944) was an Australian war photographer.He became famous for his war photography of the Second World War, and was killed by Japanese machinegun fire at Peleliu, Palau.He married Elizabeth Marie Cotter on 23 March 1944, and his son, producer Damien Parer, was born posthumously.

He was also the uncle of Australian politician Warwick Parer and film-maker David Parer.

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He was cinematographer for Australia’s first Oscar winning film, Kokoda Front Line, an edition of the weekly newsreel, Cinesound Review which was produced by Ken Hall. Damien Parer was born at Malvern in Melbourne, the tenth child of Teresa and John Arthur Parer, a hotel manager on King Island, Tasmania. In 1923, he and his brother, Adrian, were sent as boarders to St Stanislaus’ College in Bathurst and St. Kevin’s College, Melbourne . He joined the school’s camera club, and decided that he wanted to be a photographer, rather than a priest.

However, finding a job as a photographer in depression-era Australia proved difficult, and so he resumed his education at St Kevin’s in east Melbourne. While at this school he won a prize in a photographic competition run by the Melbourne newspaper, the Argus, and used the money to buy a Graflex camera used by professionals. Parer obtained an apprenticeship with Arthur Dickinson. He said later that he learnt most about photography from Dickinson and Max Dupain.

He finished his apprenticeship in 1933 and, sometime later, obtained work with the director, Charles Chauvel, on the film Heritage, where he met and became friends with another up and coming filmmaker of the time, John Heyer. At the conclusion of that film, and with the help of Chauvel, he obtained work in Sydney, and so moved there in 1935. By World War II, Parer was experienced at photography and motion pictures, and was appointed as official movie photographer to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).

His first war footage was taken on HMAS Sydney after it had sunk the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni. Soon after, he was aboard HMS Ladybird while it was bombarding the sea port of Bardia in Libya. His first experience at close quarters was during a troop advance at Derna. Parer filmed in Greece and in Syria, covering the action from aircraft, the deck of a ship and on the ground with the infantry. After Syria he travelled to Tobruk in August 1941 before covering the fighting in the Western desert.

By mid-1942 Parer was in New Guinea ready to cover the fighting against the Japanese. During this phase of the war, he filmed some of his most famous sequences, some at Salamaua and, most notably, those used in Kokoda Front Line. This documentary won its producer, Ken G. Hall, an Academy Award for documentary film-making. Parer was killed by Japanese gunfire while filming a United States Marine advance in Peleliu on the island of Palau.

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