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Ben Roberts-Smith, 2018

by Julian Kingma

Ben Roberts-Smith, 2017 by Julian Kingma
Ben Roberts-Smith, 2017 by Julian Kingma

Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG (b. 1978), former Australian Army soldier, is currently Australia’s most decorated former serviceman. Roberts-Smith was intent on a military career from boyhood; his father is a major general, and from the Boer War onwards, other antecedents served in the armed forces, three of them at Gallipoli. In 1996 Roberts-Smith joined the Australian Regular Army, conducting two tours in East Timor and one in Iraq. In the Special Air Service, he completed six tours in Afghanistan, receiving the Medal for Gallantry in 2006, the Victoria Cross – Australia’s highest honour for acts of bravery – in 2011 and the Commendation for Distinguished Service in 2013. Upon leaving the army he became an adviser to government and industry on defence and security and established his own corporate advisory consultancy, focusing on strategies to achieve high performance. With a new MBA from the University of Queensland, he became a general manager of Seven Network Queensland in 2017. Named Australian Father of the Year in 2013, Roberts-Smith was chair of the National Australia Day Council from 2014 to 2017, is patron of several veterans’ organisations, and is a sought-after keynote and motivational speaker.

Julian Kingma

‘My approach to the Ben Roberts-Smith portrait was less about concept in the end and more about emotion. Admittedly, I had my fair share of preconceived ideas, but after meeting him they were quickly discarded. I’ve always been a very instinctual photographer, planning images has never worked for me. It’s about conversation well before I pick up a camera – working more organically – taking visual cues and accepting the less obvious. Ben’s physicality is undeniable and not something I could ignore, but more importantly I wanted to show vulnerability, almost contrary to his physicality. In the end, I wanted a quiet, gentle image – one that hopefully reflects his true self.’

Julian Kingma (b. 1968) commenced his photographic career in 1988 as a cadet for the Herald newspaper in Melbourne, and later worked for the Sunday Age as Head of Features photographer. After ten years in newspapers, Kingma freelanced for various national and international publications and publishing houses including Penguin Books, Hardie Grant Books, Gourmet Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Harpers Bazaar and Rolling Stone. He has won Quill Awards for Best Portrait in 1998 and, in 2000, won Best Picture Story. He was named the Australian Nikon Photographer of the Year in 1999. In 2001, he was judged to have taken the Best Photograph at the World Food Awards. His publication IGNI - A Restaurant’s First Year won top honours at the New York Rights Fair Talking Pictures Program. Kingma has exhibited throughout Australia and his works are held in public and private collections. His own favourites amongst his ten works in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection are his portraits of Robert Dessaix, Philip Hunter and Stephen Heathcote.

Commissioned with funds provided by the Calvert-Jones Foundation 2018