Harold Cazneaux (1878 – 1953) was Australia’s greatest pictorialist photographer; a pioneer whose style had an indelible impact on the development of photographic history in this country. As a regular participator in national and international exhibitions, Cazneaux was unfaltering in his desire to contribute to the discussion about the photography of his times. He created some of the most memorable images of the early twentieth century.
For many years Cazneaux’s prints were exhibited in shows organised by the London Salon of Photography (1911 to 1952) and later included in the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain’s annual salons. In 1921 he was elected a member of the London Salon and in 1937 he was the first Australian to be conferred an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal Photographic Society. Beyond his photographic oeuvre, Cazneaux was also a prolific writer. As a correspondent for Photograms of the Year (UK) for more than twenty years he was the international voice of Australian photography. He was official photographer for Sydney Ure Smith’s lifestyle magazine The Home from 1920 to 1941. And he was commissioned to produce images for a number of Ure Smith’s publications including Sydney Surfing (1929), The Bridge Book (1930), The Sydney Book (1931) and The Australian Native Bear Book (1932).
Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography will include more than 100 of his iconic images. They have been carefully devised around key themes to explore the breadth and depth of his work such as landscape, portraits, artists’ portraits, the harbour and the city. They have been arranged chronologically, charting the visual and conceptual development of his methodology. From The Orphan Sisters (1906) to The Bamboo Blind (c1915) one can clearly see the transition in Cazneaux’s style from a moody and darkly rendered vision of narrative allusion to a more naturalistic print of sunlights effects. The use of light was a defining characteristic of Cazneaux’s later work and in 1916 he and others formed the Sydney Camera Circle, establishing the so-called ‘Sunshine School’ of photography. The Circle was created for a number of important reasons: it embraced the particularities of Australian light and landscape, and was a move away from the English-inspired darker imagery dominating photographic practice at that time.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales has one of the finest collections of Cazneaux’s work in Australia, and was also the first Australian museum to hold a major exhibition of his work in 1975. Prints for the exhibition have been mainly drawn from the AGNSW collection with key works included from the collections of the National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Patrick Corrigan collection and the Cazneaux family holdings.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major full-colour publication with essays and focus texts by leading photographic scholars and curators including professor of photography at the City University of New York, Geoffrey Batchen; Gael Newton, senior curator, photography at the National Gallery of Australia; Frances Ebury, from the University of Melbourne; and exhibition curator Natasha Bullock. Interspersed within these essays are texts by other experts including Isobel Crombie, senior curator, photography, National Gallery of Victoria; and Helen Ennis, photography historian, curator and lecturer, Australian National University.
The title of the exhibition is drawn from the artist’s letterhead, which is a fitting tribute to the artist's intentions, for it was Cazneaux – passionately believing in photography as art – who placed Australia photographically on the map of the world.
Principal Benefactors: Dick and Pip Smith