Any image of Heath Ledger is an indelible one, each commensurate in significance with all others that the young actor created over the span of his life working in film. Many will no doubt remember their exact whereabouts on first hearing of Ledger’s tragic death on January 22, 2008 – speaking personally, and specifically: pouring and then spilling a glass of water as the news broke during a break in matchplay at the Australian Open – such is the import of his life and legacy to a generation of Australians.
It’s this emotional resonance that underscores Heath Ledger: A Life in Pictures, a moving and exhaustive tribute to the late actor created in consultation with the Ledger family that will close next month after a six month season at the National Film and South Archive of Australia in Canberra.
A Life In Pictures was developed by the Western Australian Museum in Ledger’s native Perth, and includes many never-before-seen items from Ledger’s personal artefacts, including hand-written character research journals kept by Ledger to prepare for roles such as The Joker; original costumes from many of his films, including Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight; his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and his BAFTA for his role as The Joker in the latter film; Ledger’s own photographic work and the cameras used to create it; and images of the actor that have been created by other photographers, as well as items that speak to Ledger’s personal interests.
“We have been excited to see the public’s response to this unique exhibition,” Gayle Lake, Chief Curator, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, tells GRAZIA on reflecting on the exhibition’s reception to date. “People have told us how emotional and inspiring they have found learning more about Heath and his life.
“It has been a privilege for the NFSA to bring this exhibition to the east coast of Australia,” Lake continues of the show, the conclusion of which signals the last chance for audiences to experience this extensive collection of memorabilia holistically, as all items will be returned to storage and are unlikely to be displayed again in Australia in this current format.
“Knowing these items will return to the vaults in Western Australia when it closes on 10 February, makes the experience more memorable.”
Heath Ledger: A Life In Pictures will continue to exhibit at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia until February 10, 2019. More information is available here.
Tile image and cover image: Heath Ledger with Bell & Howell 70D 16mm motion picture camera, 19 April 2001/Photo by Karin Catt