The man behind the camera

HJ King and members of the Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club

Image: Indian Motorcycles: first to cross Ben Lomond to Mathinna, November 1921. HJ King and members of the Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club pushed themselves and their machines to new feats of endurance, in their promotion of motorcycling as a means to explore Tasmania. QVM.1992.P.0065.

Herbert John ('H.J.') King (1892–1973) is not a household name. However through his skill with a camera, this sometimes enigmatic man made a lasting impact on Tasmania and the people around him.

HJ King (known as Herb), together with his parents and two older brothers, ran a bicycle and motorcycle shop in Launceston, John King and Sons.

He was an extremely talented amateur photographer who documented his explorations and adventures in photographs. He won prizes for his black and white photographs, experimented with colour processes and filmed on 16mm moving film.

His aerial photographs are some of the earliest Australian examples of civilian aerial photography. King was at the same time conservative, progressive, and a man very much of his time. As a devout Christadelphian, he had strong religious beliefs. Because of this he was a pacifist, and living through the years of World War I without enlisting, he went against the expected behaviour of the time.

He was very dedicated to his family - his parents and brothers, and of course his wife Lucy and their two daughters. His love of the outdoors meant that he was part of a tight-knit community of explorers, hikers and early conservationists, and argued strongly for the creation of what was to become the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

On the road to Interlaken, early 1920s

Image: On the road to Interlaken, early 1920s. QVM.2014.P.3774

In later years he and his wife were stalwarts of the Field Naturalist community, and his collection activities had a national impact.

King loved and embraced technology. Not only did his family sell bicycles and motorcycles, but Herb and his brothers all made use of the opportunities and possibilities that they presented.

He loved speed, taking part in motorcycle races, reliability trials, hill-climbs and long-distance trips.

The other item of technology that King loved was the camera.

He used photography both as an outlet for his creativity and also as a tool for publicising the family business.

Although an amateur photographer, commentators often remarked on the professional quality of his work.

Our exhibition, HJ King: Cameras and carburettors, featured original objects (including early motorcycles) and photographs, large photographic reproductions and explore the fascinating story of HJ King.


HJ King: cameras and carburettors
Queen Victoria Museum at Inveresk
27 August 2022 – 29 October 2023