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Based on text from the original book: Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988
Gael Newton, 1988 Australian National Gallery


Chapter 9  The Salons  1900 - 1920s

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John Kauffmann, Harold Cazneaux and the Salons

The enthusiasm for John Kauffmann’s work expressed in newspaper reviews, and his success at local and interstate exhibitions at the turn of the century, indicate he was a leading exponent of the new Pictorial style. Whether Kauffmann’s example was the single cause of the efflorescence of art photography in Adelaide in these years is not certain. Both Joyner and Radford enjoyed similar success after his arrival but developed styles slightly different to Kauffmann’s forte of landscape ‘interpretations’.

Kauffmann’s work certainly stimulated the South Australian Photographic Society’s interest in Pictorial work and he is reputed to have exhibited examples of British work by A. Horsley-Hinton and H. P. Robinson(1). Kauffmann was active in the Society but was not a natural leader or proselytiser of the new style. In his long subsequent career Kauffmann wrote no articles and gave no lecture demonstrations to societies.

In 1909 Kauffmann moved to Melbourne, where he mounted a one-person show at the invitation of the Victorian Amateur Photographic Association(2). It was not until 1914 that Kauffmann was listed as a professional photographer with a studio in Collins Street. Prior to this he may have worked for his family’s businesses in Adelaide and Melbourne. Possibly a modest private income assisted him, for Kauffmann was one of the new model of professional Pictorial photographers catering to a select market for art photography.

Kauffmann seems not to have worked in the field of glamour portraiture of society or theatre personalities established by older studios, such as Falk’s, or other Pictorialists like Fred Radford and L. W. Appleby in Sydney were developing, nor to have taken commissions for the views trade. He did accept a number of pupils in later years and illustrated a book on the Sunraysia district around 1920(3). Kauffmann charged as much as ten guineas for his prints and may have been the only photographer of his generation to survive largely on sales of his work in the manner of traditional artists(4).

Kauffmann’s solo exhibition of 1910 was not the first such show, for Harold Cazneaux had held his One-Man Show at the New South Wales Photographic Society’s rooms in Hamilton Street, Sydney, in March 1909. With the emphasis placed on personal vision during these years in all the arts, one-person shows were a natural extension of aesthetic philosophies which maintained that art was ‘nature seen through a temperament’. Pure art exhibitions, separate from the mixed displays of arts and industries type exhibitions, were a feature of the art scene from the 1890s on, as was the gradual appearance of commercial art galleries. Arthur Streeton’s Sydney Sunshine exhibition of 1896 was one of the earliest one-person shows by a painter(5).

In Sydney in 1904 the Royal Art Society of New South Wales had shown gum-bichromates by L. W. Appleby (1872—1951) and in 1907 the rival New South Wales Society of Artists showed gum work by Arthur H. Adams and Appleby(6). These were some of the earliest acceptances of photographic printmakers by established art societies. Adams was editor of The Lone Hand magazine, and Appleby had introduced Pictorial style portraiture in the new gum and carbon processes to his Sydney studio some years before. Appleby’s 1905 gum portrait of Livingstone Hopkins, the graphic artist for the Bulletin magazine, was particularly well received(7).

J. W. Lindt may also have held a show in 1909 that Blamire Young reviewed as ‘The Photographer — His Place in Art — The School of Lindt(8), but Cazneaux’s exhibition effectively marks the beginning of this type of presentation of the photographer as an artist.

Harold Cazneaux

Harold Cazneaux (1878—1953) was born in New Zealand, where his parents operated a photographic studio. The family moved to Adelaide about 1889 where his father, Pierce Cazneau (sic), worked as manager-operator at Hammer and Co studios. Harold joined the same firm in 1897 as an artist-retoucher. It was not until he saw the Pictorial works in South Australian Photographic Society exhibitions of 1902-1903, that Cazneaux perceived the creative potential in photography, which he described as 'a new beauty beyond anything I had dreamed of in terms of the camera(9)'. Cazneaux’s father had never been an independent exhibiting photographer and by the 1890s studio portraiture was highly formularised leaving little scope for employees to develop any individuality. Field operators such as those employed by Charles Kerry’s studio in Sydney were perhaps a little better able to develop their skills.

Cazneaux, who had developed an early love for the bush and the outdoors, hated the studio work and dreamed of being an artist. He had been attending art classes at night run by H. P. Gill at the School of Art and Design. However, once he had seen the Pictorialists’ work on show in the same building, he abandoned any aspirations to the traditional arts and took himself to a new and better paid position, again as an artist, at the Freeman’s studio in Sydney.

On arrival there in 1904, Cazneaux did not even have a camera and had only some experience with ones he had borrowed. Despite the flood of new KODAK cameras many young wage earners could not afford even this entrée to photography.

In Sydney, Cazneaux used his extra wages to buy one of the small cameras for amateurs — the Midge’ quarter plate box camera. He began taking photographs on his way to and from work, as well as on Sunday excursions into the countryside. Cazneaux’s progress was extraordinarily rapid. He began making postcards to send home to his family and Winifred Hodge his sweetheart at Hammers. After their marriage in 1905, Cazneaux’s family also became subjects for his camera.

By 1905 he was studying The Photograms of the Year, and Horsley-Hintons booklets which he continued to recommend to aspiring artist-amateurs until the end of his life(10). In 1907 he joined the New South Wales Photographic Society. Such was Cazneaux’s success in local competitions that he was singled out for an article in the AFJ in October 1908 for a profile in the new series by Valdon 'on Our Artistic Workers'. In the interview, Cazneaux stressed how he had instinctively recognised that subject matter for pictorial treatment lay all around him in the city and that he was one of the few to have realised this(11). Pictorialist aesthetics rested upon the individual vision and printing of the photographer but the majority stuck to highly conventionalised picturesque, genre or symbolic subjects for which models existed in the traditional popular arts.

Valdon wrote his article on Cazneaux, and another on Fred Radford the following year, in an 'impressionistic' journalistic style with frequent personal comments. In both, he opposed himself, as a rather world weary city worker, with the artistic photographers who were presented as special beings whose works opened up their exalted experiences of Nature (‘the great Mother in her earthly robes’) to the mundane viewer. Of Radford he said, to give her message to us he interprets her moods in a way of his own(12). Such attitudes to photographers extended the admiration awarded to earlier views photographers like Charles Walter and Nicholas Caire, whose work was seen as an inducement to an appreciation of the landscape. The new photographs, however, were of beauties that only existed in embryo in the real world until brought forth by the vision and skill of the camera artist.

Cazneaux's status was further confirmed by the one-person show. The rooms of the Photographic Society were specially repapered in tasteful tones, and the President James Stening (1870—1953) declared ‘the object of the show as being purely artistic(12). Stening had been a founder member, but unlike the immediate past president Judge Docker, favoured the Pictorialist style. He produced fine landscape studies in the manner of the English School in the platinum process with occasional forays into soft-focus on bromide paper. Some of his genre subjects were also full of the movement that Cazneaux sought in his views(14).

Portraiture formed the majority of the seventy-six carbon and bromide prints in Cazneaux’s show. His versatility extended to genre subjects in a symbolic vein with posed models such as Gracie, and also to naturalistic images which told a story such as Visitor from town and Come in. These showed the photographer arriving and having tea with relatives inside their cottage. Most of the prints were technically sophisticated in Cazneaux’s use of printing papers and toners.

His Impressionistic views of scenes about Sydney were the most original and evocative works. These showed the old byways, the harbour ferries, the markets and the streets, often taken at dusk or early morning. Individually the images related to popular prints of artists like Julian Ashton (1859-1935) who had already exploited the picturesque potential of old Sydney areas such as The Rocks. Cumulatively Cazneaux’s pictures left an impression of an animated and picturesque city(15).

The One-Man Show, (as its catalogue proudly stated in large letters), established Cazneaux’s pre-eminence in the Pictorialist sector of Sydney photography. He was overwhelmed by the public response to the show, which was well reviewed(16) and the interest shown in his work by local artists. Cazneaux formed a lifelong friendship with Sydney Ure Smith (1887-1949), then a young painting and etching graduate from Julian Ashton’s Art School. Later, as a fine art and magazine publisher, Ure Smith would be an important patron of Cazneaux and art photography.

Cazneaux’s career as an art photographer was established by the success of his one-person show. He began writing articles, lecturing, and exhibiting regularly in over-seas salons. In confirmation of the originality of the old Sydney pictures in his exhibition, in 1910 Cazneaux wrote an article for the A.P.J. recommending such subjects, called ‘In and about the city with a hand camera(17).

He also wrote a series under the heading ‘Photography for Australians’ which advocated the use of the small camera and natural lighting for spontaneity. This series appeared in The Lone Hand magazine from September 1914 to January 1917(18).

International recognition within the Pictorialist world followed with H. Snowden Ward, editor of The Photograms of the Year 1911, comparing Cazneaux’s The razzle dazzle (1908) to the work of the most advanced art photographers(19).

In 1900, prior to Cazneaux’s arrival in Sydney, bubonic plague had broken out and the slums of The Rocks had subsequently been cleaned up and disinfected. John Degotardi Jnr from the Public Works Department, recorded the clean-up activities in1900(20) but for Cazneaux the area after 1904 was a fresh pictorial source.

By 1909 Cazneaux had a considerable collection of views of The Rocks and harbourside areas since these were directly on his route from his home on the North Shore. He exploited the small hand-held camera and his eve for figure composition and atmosphere, so that his images well matched the lively human interest elements of the older prints of the city and The Rocks areas. Crowds and moving figures had been able to be caught by the camera since the late 1880s, but few photographers could rival the painters’ or graphic artists’ ability to arrange figures to best animate a scene.

Around 1912 Cazneaux made a picture of children in front of the Argyle Cut linking the inner harbour with Sydney Cove. With the skill of persuasion necessary for such spontaneous-looking work Cazneaux organised the subjects to wait on his tripping of the shutter. At the same time he balanced the arches of old and new bridgework with the verticals of wall and lamp. It was one of a number of bold compositions made of Belmore and Paddy’s Markets, and the harbour and alleyways around the town, which Cazneaux made in the years he worked for Freemans studio.

Other photographers were at work in The Rocks in the same years as Cazneaux. One was Arthur D. Whitling (1876—1973)(21) who made stereo autochromes with his small Verascope camera. The latter was an appropriate trade name, for the Whitling image, seen as a stereo, is startlingly real. Whitling was evidently an amateur of some means, for colour work, which was largely pioneered by amateurs, was an expensive undertaking. Cazneaux in these years was too poor to experiment with colour and the picturesque transformation of his subject matter achieved through his control of printing processes at the heart of his Pictorial style would perhaps have been undermined by the directness of colour work.

The comparison of the view of The Rocks well illustrates the way the photographic technology and aesthetic philosophy interact to produce images of the same place, but different realities.

John Kauffmann

Other one-person shows quickly followed on from the precedent set by Cazneaux. Kauffmann’s exhibition of seventy-four pictures was shown in Melbourne in 1910, as were shows by T. C. Cummins and Frank Hurley in Sydney. H. C. Cartwright, Norman Deck and Cazneaux had solo exhibitions at the New South Wales Photographic Society in 1912 and Kauffmann held another show in 1914, which was also exhibited in Sydney(22). Few of the members could sustain solo exhibitions and were indeed encouraged to find a successful Pictorial formula and stick to it, which was advice they generally followed scrupulously and still do in amateur societies. T. C. Cummins for example specialised almost exclusively in wave studies and seascapes.

John Kauffmann’s exhibition was the first of the new one-person shows to be held in Melbourne, and was as well reviewed as Cazneaux’s had been. Artists also responded to the work, for example the painter Hans Heysen (1877-1968) purchased one of the photographs, titled Sheep(23).

The works in Kauffmann’s show were mostly landscapes in carbon and, like Cazneaux’s, were praised for a judicious Impressionism which avoided the extremes of soft-focus. A number of urban scenes were also included, some of which, The cloud for example, which treated the railway signal near Princes Bridge as a subject for artistic treatment, were quite radical for Australian work at this time(24). Overseas Pictorialists had been treating industrial forms decoratively since the turn of the century(25). Kauffmann continued to develop such subjects making a later view in the 1920s of a street with telegraph poles as the central motif(26).

Kauffmann’s success in overseas exhibitions had begun before his return to Adelaide and continued parallel with the exhibitions of Cazneaux, Joyner and other prominent Australian Pictorialists throughout the twenties. In Melbourne his landscapes and urban scenes were rivalled by the work of J. Temple Stephens (w. 1910s-1920s), an early experimenter with the bromoil process(27).

In Sydney the idyllic soft-focus landscapes of Norman C. Deck (1882-1980) often came close to Kauffmann’s in their shimmering atmosphere. Deck had begun work in the more detailed and naturalistic style typical of the turn of the century. He joined the New South Wales Photographic Society and the Ashfield Camera Club in the early years, before taking up service as a missionary in the Solomon Islands in 1913(28).

A different kind of Pictorial work was pioneered by Frank Hurley in Sydney. He was a professional postcard photographer who had taken his camera out around the city. His interests were more for dramatic technical tour de force pictures. He wrote an article for the Harrington’s Photographic Journal in 1910, ‘Night outing round the city'(29), but had little in common with the more poetic aspirations of fellow members of the New South Wales Photographic Society, such as Cazneaux. In 1911 Hurley was appointed as official photographer to Dr Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic Expedition(30). The concern for dramatic Pictorial effect in his Antarctic work had its origins in the achievements of the first generation of art photographers at the turn of the century.

Group exhibitions flourished during the early years of the century and the Pictorialists attracted considerable attention from the magazines, which included ever lengthier reviews of their works of art. A certain rivalry between the Sydney and Melbourne societies stimulated each group to aspire to larger and more spectacular exhibitions. The Victorian societies formed an affiliation in 1907 and held an exhibition in 1909 with over 400 exhibits, and an interstate interclub competition in 1910 with entries from both main societies in Sydney and Melbourne as well as a number of smaller suburban and regional clubs(31).

The Tasmanian clubs were equally active in these years but less attracted to the ‘fuzzy-wuzzy’ styles so popular on the eastern mainland. The South Australian Society was somewhat in decline and even in conflict as the older, conservative school of thought came into conflict with the overtly artistic work of some of the members(32).

The New South Wales Society dominated the Victorian Affiliation Exhibition of 1910, taking first prize as a group. In 1911 they mounted a large international salon of which the editorial of the H.P.J. declared that ‘modern Pictorial photography can undoubtedly claim to be an art’(33). The exhibition was held in the Royal Art Society’s rooms and judged by Norman Lindsay, Henry King and William Tyree. The 106 English works had been selected by F. J. Mortimer (1874-1944), editor of The Photograms of the Year, and included many prominent figures; Frederick Evans, E.O. Hoppé, J. C. Warburg and A. H. Blake.

The photographic salon run by The Linked Ring Brotherhood had collapsed by 1909 and been replaced by the London Salon as a consequence of conflicts with the radical American Photo-Secessionists, led by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). The conflict arose from the constraint placed upon Pictorialists’ desire to express their 'personal artistic feeling and execution'. For the British there were real limits to individuality if it subverted traditional notions of decorum, naturalism and the picturesque(34).

For Stieglitz, photography as an art was being pioneered by his small coterie of camera artists exploring photography to its limits even if this meant abandoning the picturesque for the abstract. The journal Camera Work that he edited, changed direction after 1909, but the Australians were cut off from an understanding of the new directions by the schism with English Pictorialists(35).

The photographic societies were made up of large numbers of members and the problem raised by the development of art aspirations was the inevitable exclusion of conservative or less talented members’ work in the exhibitions. To remain an international proletariat of Pictorial photographers without accepting the harsher realities of competition between artists and the need for full-time dedication, was in conflict with the social role played by these societies.

A national picture — the sunshine school

The 1911 exhibition held by the New South Wales Photographic Society was followed by an even more substantial salon in 1917 at the new Education Department Gallery(36). A catalogue with twelve tipped-in illustrations was published, the most substantial yet produced in Australia. A new group, The Sydney Camera Circle, made its debut at the 1917 salon. It had been formed late the year before by members of the Photographic Society; Harold Cazneaux, Cecil Bostock, James Stening, W. S. White (d.1932), Malcolm Mackinnon and James Paton. A single copy of Camera Work of 1909 in Cazneaux’s possession has drawings for a logo for the group.

The new group met at the studio of commercial artist Cecil W. Bostock (1884-1939) who had only taken up photography around 1915. His skill at calligraphy and decorative bookbinding was used to prepare a Declaration for the group and albums of the outings(37). Entrance to the Circle was by invitation only and the tone and decoration of the Declaration traced its origins to the earlier secession of The Linked Ring Brotherhood from the Royal Photographic Society in 1892.

In 1917 Bostock produced A Portfolio of Art Photographs containing ten small bromide prints of a selection of landscapes, urban scenes and a striking nude study. These were restrained and direct images which had little trace of the exaggerated soft-focus or low tone of earlier Pictorialism. The title subtly proclaimed the change of direction away from photo-impressionism towards an aesthetic regrounded in the kind of naturalism which the camera could handle well. The images confirmed that art photography did not have to be manipulated to match effects more easily obtained in painting and the graphic arts.

Sydney Ure Smith wrote the review and editorial for the A.P.-R. December 1917 issue 38 which assessed the salon. He expressed the reaction against the excessive handwork and fuzziness of the past in preference for real, unretouched photographic quality. Ure Smith had met and been impressed by Cazneaux as early as his 1909 exhibition and remained a significant supporter of photography as art, through its evolution from Pictorialism to Modernism and documentary work in succeeding years. Smith was made an associate of the Sydney Camera Circle whose members had been responsible for the revival of the New South Wales Photographic Society for the 1917 exhibition. By the end of the year there were about twelve members(39).

The aim of the Circle was to pull Pictorial photography out of the ‘rut of low tone’ into which it had fallen and to express a national school based on sunshine. This was indeed appropriate, for the Australian soldiers were at that time being slaughtered overseas wearing the rising sun emblem on their slouch hats. The war focussed attention on the nation, although few Pictorialists went, or even attempted to deal with the local events pictorially. Bostock enlisted and served in France and Germany in 1918. He had an exhibition of his watercolours in London in 1919 and made albums of snaps and one treatment of a war subject called Dawn breaks cold-shrieking-bloody but in general his diaries show little interest in recording the war photographically(40).

In 1915 Cazneaux had made a picture of his small daughter on the verandah of their home in North Sydney in which the light coming through a Japanese blind fell across her face in brilliant striations(41). He had been calling for local photographers to fill their pictures with ‘light and air’ in the articles he was writing for The Lone Hand(42). The Sydney painter, Elioth Gruner (1882-1939), and Hans Heysen were also among painters making images of scenes against the sunlight similar to those featured in Cazneaux’s Lone Hand illustrations.

Pictorialism had appeared at the turn of the century when national sentiment was high due to the forthcoming Federation of the States under a separate national government. Critics had implored the photographers to ‘cast their efforts in with their loyalty, and so exhibit a national character, just as our soldiers in South Africa did not ape the Imperial Troops by keeping shoulder to shoulder, and yet came out with honours'(43). The First World War brought a new wave of nationalism and calls for an Australian school of Pictorialism, which would feature more typical Australian motifs, including bright light in preference to the soft misty atmosphere appropriate to European landscape work.

Pictorial professionals

H. Walter Barnett had extended the portrait trade at the turn of the century through the stylish portraiture of socialites and celebrities, often printed in the luxurious carbon and platinotype processes favoured by the art photographers. He belonged to The Linked Ring Brotherhood and had had work exhibited in salons. Fred Radford and L. W. Appleby were also among the earliest professionals to apply extra artistic finish and posing to portrait work. Appleby in particular was known for his portraits in gum-bichromate. Portraitists began to borrow some of the precedents of celebrity portraits for the depiction of ordinary people. The English painter of the eighteenth century, Joshua Reynolds, had made a speciality of portraits of beautiful women depicted as allegorical characters. This mode, and the fashion of tableaux photography, was increasingly applied to commissioned portrait photo-graphs after the turn of the century.

Jack Cato (1889-I971), a young photographer from Tasmania and later author of The Story of the Camera in Australia (1955), worked extensively in theatre photography between 1909-1913 in London. At first he worked for H. W. Barnett and Claude Harris and later established studios in Hobart in 1920 and Melbourne in 1927(44). His portrait of the Duchess of Leinster of 1911 transforms the subject into an ethereal muse. Such glamour portraiture tended to fix women in the attitude of demure unworldliness with eyes cast down or fixed on some distant higher goal. Later portraits such as Athol Shmith’s of the luminous Vivien Leigh of 1948 continue this tradition.

The new professionals in the prewar years included a number of women, reflecting the greater independence of women, electoral gains through the suffrage issue and the change in social structures whereby fewer women expected to be kept at home until marriage. Alice Mills (1870-1929) trained as a colourist in the Johnstone O’Shaunessy studio where she met her future husband, the painter Tom Humphrey (1858-1922), then manager of the studio. They started their own business in 1900. This later operated under her name only, probably from 1902 on when illness affected Thomas’ work. Mills made many portraits of artists, including Tom Roberts, and one of her husband and daughter Mary(45).

Judith Fletcher (w. 1905-1930) also seems to have had connections with art circles, making a number of portraits of Arthur Streeton. Fletcher began as an amateur and turned professional in 1908(46). The New Zealand born sisters, May (1881-1931) and Mina (1882-1967) Moore had a studio in New Zealand before May set up a studio in Sydney at the Bulletin Building and Mina in Melbourne in the Auditorium Buildings. The sisters relied on a formula known as Rembrandt lighting which left much of the picture in rich dark brown tones and picked out the main profile or features with a pencil of light from one side. Their work was often stamped with both names, but it was possibly Mina in Melbourne who made the extraordinary portrait of Shirley Huxley with her hair flowing, one of the classics of Australian photography. Its inspired and unusual composition sidestepped the formulas of muse or vamp into which much glamour portraiture polarised in these years.

Many portrait studios worked in similar styles of lighting and printing as used by the Moore sisters, although few did as much as they did with the formula. Rudolph Buchner, about whom very little is known, worked in Sydney and Melbourne around 1913-1930. He made a striking portrait of Mary Gilmore in 1913 and one of artist Elioth Gruner framed in a doorway in 1925(47).

Mina Moore’s studio was taken over by Ruth Hollick (1882-1977) who had trained at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne in 1902-1903 and like May Moore, who had originally studied art at Elam Art School in Auckland, was attracted to the artistic, literary and theatrical circles of Melbourne. These circles were most likely more receptive to women as professionals. Ruth Hollick retained friendships with students from the National Gallery School: painter, Dora L. Wilson (1883-1946), and photographer, Pegg Clarke (c.1890-1956), who exhibited in salons in addition to running a studio in Melbourne. Dorothy Izard became Hollick’s partner around 1918(48).

Hollick had a special talent with child photography - still a taxing subject in the 1920s despite technological advances. Her work filled the illustrated magazines of the day including Sydney Ure Smith’s The Home, founded in 1920.

In child and social portraiture Hollick was the Melbourne counterpart to Harold Cazneaux in Sydney who had an appointment as special photographer to The Home. Hollick’s studies were less stylised than many of Cazneaux’s. An ingenious portrait of the young and seemingly affluent Master Quentin Cain of around 1930, equalled the novel compositions which Cazneaux favoured and left a strong sense of the subject. In the I930s Hollick retired from the city studio and worked from home.


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List of illustrations used in the original publication (captions may be abbreviated):

P.85: John Kauffmann: A chestnut grove in autumn. c.1898

P.86: Pierce Cazneau: Reception room, Hammer and Co. Studion, Adelaide. 1890s

P.87: Harold Cazneaux: Puncture in Pitt Street. 1912

P.88: NSW Govt Works ( John Degotardi Jnr) from album, Plague Sydney 1901-1910.

P.88: Arthur D. Whitling: Old Sydney, Trinity Avenue, The Rocks. 1912

P.89: Harold Cazneaux: Children of The Rocks. 1912

P.90: Norman C. Deck: In the New Forest, Hants, England. c.1920

P.91: Cecil W. Bostock: (label) A Portfolio of Art Photographs. 1917

P.93: Jack Cato: Duchess of Leinster, London. 1911

P.94: Alice Mills: Tom Humphrey and his daughter, Mary. C.1912

P.95: May and Minna Moore Studio: Shirley Huxley. c.1928

P.96: Ruth Hollick: Quentin Cain. c.1930





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