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- Bron­wyn Wat­son Ma­te­ri­als: inkjet print on pa­per Di­men­sions: 42 x 32.5cm Entertainment · Celebrities · Heath Ledger · Prague · Akon · Perth · Los Angeles · Australia · Hollywood · Dark Knight · Batman · New York City · Mel Gibson · Russell Crowe · Calvin Klein · Ralph Lauren · Polo Ralph Lauren · Bruce Weber · Canberra · Abercrombie & Fitch

Bruce We­ber, Heath Ledger, Prague, 2000 (printed 2009). Col­lec­tion Na­tional Por­trait Gallery, Canberra. Pur­chased with the as­sis­tance of Alan Dodge AM, 2009. The work can be viewed on­line at https://www.por­trait.gov.au

At the age of 16, Heath Ledger de­cided he wanted to leave school and pur­sue an act­ing ca­reer. He and his best mate, Trevor DiCarlo, who’d known each other since they were three, jumped in a car and drove from their home­town of Perth to Syd­ney. They did the trip in three days and ar­rived vir­tu­ally pen­ni­less. Ledger had 69 cents in his bank ac­count.

By the time he was 19, Ledger was in Los An­ge­les. He’d done some film and TV work in Aus­tralia, but once in Hol­ly­wood his act­ing ca­reer is well-known: films such as 10 Things I Hate About You, The Pa­triot, and Broke­back Moun­tain. In the last film he com­pleted, The Dark Knight, in 2008, he won a post­hu­mous Os­car and Golden Globe award for his por­trayal of the Joker. He died from an ac­ci­den­tal over­dose of pre­scrip­tion drugs, aged 28, in New York.

In Au­gust 2000, when Ledger was 21, he ap­peared on the cover of Van­ity Fair mag­a­zine along­side head­lines: “HEY, THIS GUY IS GOOD! … Like his Pa­triot co-star Mel Gib­son and Rus­sell Crowe be­fore him, he’s the hot new Aussie in Hol­ly­wood” and “WE’RE HAV­ING A HEATH WAVE”.

The cover story was writ­ten by jour­nal­ist and edi­tor Kevin Ses­sums, who’d vis­ited Ledger on the set of A Knight’s Tale in

Prague. The cover pho­to­graph and the photo spread in­side the mag­a­zine were taken by Bruce We­ber, a fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher for com­pa­nies like Calvin

Klein, Ralph Lauren, and

Aber­crom­bie & Fitch, and mag­a­zines such as Vogue,

Van­ity Fair, and GQ.

We­ber’s Van­ity Fair cover pho­to­graph of Ledger in Prague is in the col­lec­tion of Canberra’s Na­tional

Por­trait Gallery and can be viewed on­line at https:// www.por­trait.gov.au.

At the gallery, cu­ra­tor of ex­hi­bi­tions, Penny Grist, says this work is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause Ledger is one of Aus­tralia’s best-known and best­loved ac­tors and it is the most tragic of sto­ries.

“Heath Ledger had no for­mal act­ing train­ing, but ex­cep­tional per­for­mances se­cured his in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion,” she says. “Bruce We­ber, born in 1946, has long been one of the world’s lead­ing fash­ion, editorial, por­trait, and ad­ver­tis­ing pho­tog­ra­phers. His pho­to­graphic por­trait cap­tures Ledger aged 21 in the midst of his early and fast rise to in­ter­na­tional star­dom.”

Grist says she in­cluded this por­trait in a 2015 ex­hi­bi­tion called Bare: De­grees of Un­dress, which ex­plored body lan­guage and bare­ness in con­vey­ing a sense of iden­tity in por­trai­ture.

“Both the un­de­fin­able cool of Ledger and the sleek style of this top Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher com­bine to make this por­trait feel strangely, though com­fort­ably Aus­tralian,” she says. “There is also a warm de­fi­ance, charm and beauty in this por­trait that makes it feel like a poignant and pre­cious relic of that mo­ment in Ledger’s life and ca­reer.”

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