Monday 12 August 2013 by Stephanie Boyle. No comments
Collection, Collection Highlights, News, Personal Stories, Afghanistan, Film, Video, oral history

The 2011 appointment of the Memorial's Official Cinematographer to Afghanistan followed in the Memorial’s tradition of official commissions since WW1.  The Memorial commissioned John Martinkus, the first bona fide journalist to act for the Memorial since Charles Bean, the Memorial's instigator.  Martinkus' commission took him into the world of the Australian soldier whose day to day realities include the challenges inherent in training Afghan National Army (ANA) members, and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs),  identified as the biggest single threat to Australian troops in Afghanistan.

This is the first of the three stories Martinkus produced for the Memorial : a thirty minute documentation of the work and experiences of Australian troops in Al Minhad and Tarin Kot, including the work of Special Operations Task Group, seen and interviewed as they prepare to go on a night raid; the detection of and dealing with IEDs, and the work of Australians training ANA in IED detection, security, and other matters.
Researchers, film makers, students and many others will in the years to come access this material, which will also be displayed online and in the Memorial’s galleries.

footage by John Martinkus of Ben Quilty in a bomb suitImage of Ben Quilty, Official Artist, wearing a bomb disposal (EOD) suit. Image captured from video by John Martinkus.

Martinkus' brief was not prescriptive, but intended to allow him as the official cinematographer to bring his personal style to the commission and the finished material produced as a result of the tour.  He was asked to record as sincerely and authentically as possible the life and times of ADF members in an active theatre of war, to document their experiences, whether personal or procedural, for benefit of contemporary and future generations.  In this way he helped build the Memorial’s factual record of the ADF working environment with particular reference to people, events, training scenarios, a working day, and the dynamics between Australians and personnel of other nations, including ISAF and the ANA.  In the course of this work he would also record one to one interviews with ADF members:

..we had a second round land our flank ... fortunately all the  fragmentation and blast passed above our heads - tore through our car that  we were laying under, busted out all the windows and put a few holes through the car - but fortunately no one was injured, so that was a good day... 
-Captain Andy Cullen, OED Troop Commander

Others suffered from IED's even more directly:

The Taliban..basically snuck up to us.. a command initiated IED struck our vehicle..I'd jumped to the ground.. once I got to [my mate], he was pretty messed up. His hand was snapped in half..
Corporal Matthew Snowden, 3CER

Australian soldiers training Afghan National Army members in IED detection. Ref F09579

An essential part of the Commission was Martinkus'  subsequent production of three separate pieces or “stories,” which provide concise insight into different aspects of ADF life “in-country”.  Stay tuned for the second story of Australian Defence people in Afghanistan.

 John Martinkus as Official Australian War Memorial Cinematographer.John Martinkus during his deployment to Afghanistan as Official Cinematographer for the Australian War Memorial. Photo credit: Ben Quilty.

John is a highly respected author and television journalist. He was born in Australia in 1969, grew up in Melbourne and studied international relations at Melbourne's La Trobe University. Following a period studying Russian Language in Moscow, he visited East Timor and in late 1994 began writing freelance stories about the conflict, which he sold to papers in Australia and New Zealand, and wrote A Dirty Little War  which draws on his many visits to Timor leading up to and following the 1999 elections. He is a seasoned visitor to the Middle East,  filing several reports for SBS Dateline from Afghanistan. He is currently a lecturer in Journalism and Communications at University of Tasmania.