15th June 1931 – 3rd November 2021
Pioneering Tasmanian cinematographer, and founding member of the ACS Tas Branch, Bob Montgomery, sadly passed away last Tuesday – aged 90.
Bob was part of the ACS in Tasmania right from the start. He attended our first ever meeting, held at the Government Film Unit in Hobart – 5th February 1969. At that meeting Bob was voted in as our first Vice President, alongside John Bale, our inaugural President. Bob has maintained a link with the Society ever since.
For most of his life Bob lived and worked in Launceston. He was the ABC’s first ever contract (stringer) cameraman, covering events in the North of the state. That was just one small part of a long and illustrious career.
As a teenager Bob showed an early interest in photography and found work with Kodak in Brisbane Street, Launceston. The skills he learned there came in handy when at the age of 19 (in 1950) he left Tasmania to see the world. He earned his passage on board a ship to England, taking photographs of passengers and crew. He developed and printed the photographs on board, utilising the skills he’d learned at Kodak. Later, when travelling through Canada, Bob worked in Ontario and Ottawa as a newspaper photographer.
When he returned to Tasmania Bob worked as a stills photographer at the Examiner Newspaper, before setting up his own business as a freelance photographer. When Television came to Tasmania Bob bought his first 16mm movie camera (a Bolex) and worked for the ABC as a ‘stringer’ – freelance cinematographer. This Bolex was the first of many cameras Bob collected through the years. He covered all kinds of things happening in the north of the State – floods, catastrophes, fairs, shows, sporting events – even the Australian Grand Prix at Longford where he filmed the likes of Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart and Bruce McLaren.
Any film Bob shot for ABC News had to be sent to Hobart, often by Bob waving down a vehicle heading south on the Midlands Highway in the early afternoon. He’d ask the driver to deliver the film to Hobart for processing, in time for it to be edited in time for the 7 o’clock News. He never lost a single story using this technique!
Also there were Current Affairs stories – initially for This Day Tonight (TDT) and later on the 7.30 Report. Bob also took time out to produce some longer films and documentaries including The Line that Divides, a film he was always proud of. It focussed on the connection between young schoolchildren and older citizens. A forerunner of the recent ABC Series Old Peoples Home For 4 Year Olds!
Tamar – The Living Valley was another of his documentaries, as was To Birdsville and Back, a documentary on the first 2-wheel drive vehicles (Dune Buggies) to cross the Simpson Desert. Bob acted as official Photographer, Cinematographer and Navigator! Always inventive Bob loved the challenge of capturing this trip.
Bob’s work was very highly regarded and he could easily have furthered his career interstate or overseas. However Bob chose to raise a family on home soil, surrounded by the community he loved. Bob’s son Robert (Rob) Montgomery has followed in his Dad’s footsteps, and is also a long-time cinematographer and ACS member, working in the North of Tasmania. Our condolences go out to Rob, his sister Denise, and other members of the Montgomery family. Bob was a legend, and those of us who knew him will miss him greatly.