Gary Ramage admits he’s seen too much death. As a former soldier and one of Australia’s leading news photographers, Ramage has been in and out of war zones for more than 20 years.
From mass graves in Kosovo, to a young girl crying in Somalia, and a soldier and his dog sleeping together on the ground for warmth in Afghanistan, Ramage’s images capture confronting and moving moments in war as he returns again and again to the front line to tell the stories of the men and women who can’t speak for themselves.
“I have seen things that I can’t unsee,” Ramage said. “[But] I can get through by reminding myself of the simple rule I live by: in wars where nothing seems to matter, I can take pictures in which every person counts.”
One such picture is what he calls the “archway picture”, which has been chosen to represent modern-day Australian forces in the lead-up to Anzac Day commemorations at the Australian War Memorial. Part of a collection of black and white photographs Ramage took while embedded with Australian soldiers in Afghanistan in 2011, the picture shows members of Charlie Company, 2RAR, during a quiet moment while working out of a remote US Special Forces base in Uruzgan Province.
“We’d stopped in this location outside of a village and the guys were sleeping in this mud hut,” he said. “It was very calm, and the guys were obviously relaxing and chilling out … They’d accepted me as part of their patrol and … that was just one of the lucky pictures that I took that day, where they were just ignoring me and going about their daily routine.
“The guys were exhausted – they’d been out there for months on end, and it was a … nice moment where they were just relaxing as if there was nothing that could harm them anywhere. But there was. That area had just been cleared the night before by American Special Forces.
“It’s not your typical bang-bang picture with blood and guts and gore and fighting; it’s the other side of what it is that the soldiers do. It’s caught them in a moment which you normally don’t get to see because they are … always ready in case something happens.”