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SHADES OF LIGHT online

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

CHAPTER 11          LIVE IN THE YEAR 1929

 footnotes   |   contents   next chapter  |  search-shades

 

Pictorialists and Modernists

After the war Pictorialism dominated the exhibitions of the various societies and most States had members whose work was outstanding. Membership of the Sydney Camera Circle was at its peak with successes in overseas exhibitions. The KODAK Salon in 1921 included a special exhibition of their work(1). In 1924 and 1926 the Sydney Camera Circle members were behind the formation of the Australian Salon which they hoped would become established in the international network of major annual shows.

Cecil Bostock designed and edited the two salon catalogues, called Cameragraphs, each of over forty pages and illustrated with images by some sixty photographers. The bulk of the illustrations were of international Pictorialists’ work, although to balance this, reports from the various States and New Zealand were included.

Harold Cazneaux contributed lengthy reviews of the pictures in both catalogues, which emphasised the ‘sincerity’ of the authors and praised some scenes as ‘typically Australian'(2). To modern eyes the fallacies of the Australian school and international Pictorialism are all too obvious.

Few sunshine works or any characteristic Australian life and scenery can be found and in general all works, regardless of country, blur into a bland 'world' of landscapes and quaint genre subjects. The style of many Pictorialists simply resurrected a picturesque aesthetic already depleted at the turn of the century.

Only a small number of works referred to contemporary events, or even fashions in these years. which elsewhere are characterised as the Roaring Twenties. The catalogue essays gave a sense of Australian Pictorial photography having ‘arrived’ and the exhibition of Australian work at the Royal Photographic Society in London in 1928 would have confirmed this view(3).

The Australian Salon did not establish itself as an international annual salon and leadership within Australia passed to the Victorian Salon formed in 1929. The success of the salons, in terms of substantial catalogues, was not reached again until attempts were made in the 1940s and 1950s to have annual illustrated photography exhibition reviews with Australian Photography 1947 and Australian Photography 1957 publications(4).

In his editorial to the Cameragraphs 1926, Cecil Bostock noted that:

The Australian work appears to stand favourably against the English, American. and Continental, though the outlook is entirely different. Freakism is less evident than ever, though there are a few examples of the novelty type.

Fear of freakism had been expressed with the first appearance of the fuzzy wuzzies’. The horror at the prospect of untrammelled experiment and individuality in Pictorial work was one of the contradictions of a movement supposedly dedicated to the vision of its individual exponents. Conflicting notions of the decorum of Pictorial works had led to the departure of the American Photo-Secessionists from the English exhibitions in I909(5).

Bostock may well have been more aware of the contrast between Pictorial photography and the modern world than his comments on freakism suggest. He also noted the role that professionals were playing in international exhibitions with their perfection of technique. Nevertheless he reaffirmed the important belief of the Pictorialists that amateurs still had more time to devote to the 'art side' but admitted that for some of the new exhibiting professionals their 'love of their work suffices to rise above the mere business end of things’. His own still-life study in the first salon was called Form and light and regarded as rather modern by Cazneaux(6).

In 1917, when the New South Wales Photographic Society had held its big salon only two exhibitors were professionals(7). By the time of the Australian Salons there was a new breed of professional photographers whose jobs included product advertising, industrial and architectural illustration and other aspects of commercial art. The illustrated magazine The Home was a major patron of art photographers in both their guises as amateur Pictorialists and as commercial illustrators. Other magazines, for example Table Talk, in Melbourne, provided additional work but The Home was self-consciously trendy and modern(8). It was directed at the same affluent readership as formed many of Cazneaux’s and Ruth Hollick’s clients for portraiture.

Cazneaux’s sun-striped child study, The bamboo blind, was featured prominently in the first issue of The Home of I920(9) and he had been appointed as their official free-lance photographer. The association between the smart image cultivated by the magazine and Cazneaux’s entry into independent professional work was a ‘perfect marriage’. As Jack Cato wryly observed, other photographers would have paid the magazine to be included(10). Cato was conspicuous by his absence from The Home although he did work in the new field of illustration for Melbourne clients(11).

Cazneaux had resigned from Freemans in 1918 following a breakdown brought on by overwork as chief operator, manager and artist. His decision was also fueled by the threat of dismissal from Alfred George, the owner, if he did not sign a document precluding any rights to independent work as a Pictorial photographer(12). During his midlife crisis, Cazneaux perceived that he could create a Pictorial-professional genre of his own and proceeded to advertise his artistic photography and natural at-home portrait service(13). After working from Bostock’s studio in Phillip Street in 1919, Cazneaux found he had enough work to be able to operate from his home at Roseville, on Sydney’s North Shore without needing a city studio. Cazneaux’s bitterness at Alfred George and his long-standing hatred of the indoor portrait studio was such that in all of his subsequent career he continued to ally with the ‘amateur’ status of the Pictorial movement without acknowledging that he made his living from professional work in various forms all his life.

Cecil Bostock commenced his commercial photography on his return from war service in February 1920 and Monte Luke (1885-1962) opened up a studio in The Strand in 1920 while maintaining a role as an exhibiting art photographer. Luke had been involved with still photography and cinematography for the theatre as an employee of J.C. Williamson. He applied some of the glamour of theatre and social portraiture learnt during his work in the theatre and a partnership with the Falk studios in 1919. Luke gained a reputation for smart advertising work which often utilised local ‘stars’ as the models(14).

By 1927 Bostock was taking fashion photographs for the David Jones Store, and in 1929 he received a commission to record the building of the new Elizabeth Street store(15). He also began doing work for engineering and industrial firms, although no examples survive. Bostock’s work was austere by comparison with that of Luke or Cazneaux, but in other ways his straightforward, cool touch was suited to the new styles of art and advertising photography emanating from Europe, and in particular Germany, between 1927-1933(16).

By the late 1920s Cazneaux had virtually eclipsed any potential competitors and remained the star photographer for The Home, to the point where the magazine s image was synonymous with his photography and the smart graphic artists whose work took an increasingly prominent place within the pages. Some pressure came from editor, Leon Gellert, for Cazneaux to try more adventurous and stylised work but Cazneaux remained faithful to the naturalism at the core of his Pictorialist aesthetics(17).

However, by the late 1920s he was making images with the clearer outlines and patterning of Art Deco. His interest in natural light effects was given even freer rein by the taste for bright, decorative geometric illustrations. Possibly as early as 1925 and certainly by 1928(18) Cazneaux had made a dramatic image of Martin Place from a fashionable high angle as seen in the pages of the overseas magazines and Das Deutsche Lichtbild (German Light Pictures) which published pictorial and professional work(19). Cazneaux made another high-angle view of the surfshooters in which the bold vertical division of the image with the black heads of the surfers reduced to polka dots, came as close to abstraction as Cazneaux would ever go. He also made a series of 'New Idea' portraits for The Home featuring painted backdrops by leading modern decorative artist Adrian Feint (1894—1971).

These were Art Deco glamour pieces to which Cazneaux was not particularly sympathetic. They lacked a real enthusiasm for decorativeness and glamour that made similar social portraiture overseas so striking. Cazneaux’s glamour portraits are rather prim compared to the atmosphere of portraits by Baron De Meyer (c.1869—1946) or emotional and moody studies of stars Greta Garbo and Eleanor Duse, by Arnold Genthe (1869—1942) in the mid I 92Os(20).

The 'New Idea’ portraits, however, were successful enough to provide the illustration for 'The Home’s own advertising, which impelled potential readers to Live in the Year 1929’ by subscribing to The Home, ‘the one paper in Australia that reflects the latest trend of modern thought’. Modernism cannot be ignored . . . The Home’s excursions into modern photographic presentation have never been excelled(21).

Cazneaux was not of the same mould as the readership of The Home. He viewed modern art and related developments with increasing disdain and disapproval. He was more at ease in a series of portraits made for The Home.

Social Photograph Competition of 1931 in which, although virtually a staff photographer, he carried off first, second and third prize. The portraits were stunning studies of relaxed, lovely girls in natural outdoor settings which were original and unmatched by the Modernist portrait paintings of the period(22).

His great skill as a photographer had helped him evolve a style which retained the storytelling elements and atmosphere of Pictorialism, absorbed the decorative patterning of Art Deco through the use of contours and sharper light contrasts but avoided the unnatural angles and distortion of other Modernist styles. In some ways he became the first exponent of Modernism by example but not belief(23).

>>>  footnotes

A new scale: Modernism

In 1926 work on the great arch of the world’s largest single-span bridge began from stanchions on the opposing sides of Sydney Harbour. Sydneysiders watched for four years as the two arcs rose higher and closer, until in August 1930, the arch was complete. In honour of the occasion Ure Smith published a book of photographs by Cazneaux of the recent progress of the bridge. The foreword by Leon Gellert declared that it represented:

the intrusion of the age of steel and the passing of individuality. It is out of tune with the homestead and the hearth, and the myriad historic residences, scores of which have been kicked aside that its feet may be more firmly planted on the shores(24).

Cazneaux made appropriately romantic and dramatic views for the publication but would have held back from Gellert’s functionalist aesthetic which described such engineering as 'a perfect object of art'.

Earlier publications in the stable of The Home had predicted the emergence of a similar aesthetic; Jean Curlewis writing in The Home Pictorial Annual of 1928 embraced the Industrial Age in passionate terms far removed from the idealised eternal harmonies sought by the Pictorialists:

in a year or two hence we shall lead our visitors to Walsh Bay or Darling Island and bid them mark the pattern of bold masses and intricate detail made against the sky by wheat silos(25).

There were as yet no skyscrapers to enthuse over, these were delayed until after the mid 1930s by the Depression. The monumental wheat silos beside the docks at Pyrmont and the rugged, modern incinerators designed by architect Walter Burley Griffin, were some of the most awesome local examples of modern engineering apart from the great bridge(26).

As early as 1920 Henri Mallard had treated a submarine as a subject for an exhibition photograph. He was so impressed by the significance of the bridge that he made a 16 millimetre film, stereograph and still photographic record of its construction(27). Documents and art were evidently in different categories for Mallard. When he printed the negatives for exhibitions he made them into rather poor bromoils(28). One of the last bromoils he made was a tribute to a steam train and the decorative form of a railway signal of 1939(29). He continued as an active member of the Photographic Society into the 1960s.

Mallard’s stereographs and negatives of the bridge workers suggest an interest in the workers such as expressed by American photographer, Lewis Hine (1874-1940) in his coverage of the construction of the Empire State Building in New York(30).

Mallard had a sense of history and recording but his bromoil prints and the remaining body of Pictorialist work shows that he did not have a sense of the new documentary movement or any solidarity with the workers.

A Pictorialist with an understanding of the new world who visited Australia in 1930 was English photographer E.O. Hoppé (1878-1972). He had made his reputation in London for stylish social and theatrical portraiture and from the mid 1920s had extended this with travel books(31). He sent Cazneaux a personal invitation to his Sydney exhibition in April 1930 at the David Jones Gallery(32). The following year he published his Australian work as The Fifth Continent(33). It was one of the earliest national photographic coverages by an art photographer. anticipating Frank Hurley’s stream of picture book publications on Australia in the 1940s. The photographs in it are clear and concise with little Pictorialist 'atmosphere’.

From within the ranks of the New South Wales Photographic Society there was a schoolboy photographer in the process of transforming his Pictorialist romanticism into a Modernist style appropriate to the enthusiasms of The Home. Max Dupain (1911 - 1992) exhibited a photograph Modern might at the Society’s 1928 exhibition and two years later joined Cecil Bostock’s studio as an apprentice. It was a fortuitous choice for Bostock was a good technician, devoted to the advance of art photography, and proved receptive to the new ideas of the abstract beauty of pure form which Dupain was developing(34).

By 1933 Dupain had made an image, Silos—morning in which the ‘bold masses’ of the grain silos at Pyrmont were outlined against the sky. It was shown to the New South Wales Photographic Society where its degree of abstraction, emphasised by the extreme low viewpoint, was criticised. Bostock defended the work(35) but henceforth, although Dupain’s photographs appeared in exhibitions with Pictorialist works, his style had none of the atmosphere, diffused outlines and graceful idealisation demanded by Pictorial aesthetics(36). Precedents for Dupain s ‘unpicturesque’ subjects and casual ‘photographic’ composition, had been set by painters such as Modernist painter-architect, John D. Moore (1886-1958) with whom Dupain was friendly(37).

By 1935 Dupain was making even more radical images of the industrial landscape around Pyrmont, with low and high viewpoints used to dramatise the forms and raking light to either bring out their solidity or east them as geometric shapes. Where in 1932 he had made a bromoil of a quarry with a human interest element in the figures of manual labourers(38), now telegraph poles and car wheels dominated a surreal environment denuded of people and any sense of the organic(39). The graceful asymmetry of Pictorialism was replaced by new theories of dynamic symmetry advocated by Jay Hamblins books(40).

Pictorialists had already treated machinery and telegraph poles as decorative forms subordinated to the graphic effect of the whole image. In the last year of Dupain’s work with him, Bostock had been commissioned, with Cazneaux, to photograph the new Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park. The photographs published in The Book of the Anzac Memorial in 1934(41) were restrained, simple and direct, well suited to the Art Deco forms of the building. Bostock included his own low-angle view of the scaffolding for the dome in which the forms predominate but are not autonomous.

Cazneaux also responded to Modernism in the 1930s building on the decorative geometric patterns of his earlier images. He gained an important commission in 1935 to photograph the various steel-making plants of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company for their fiftieth anniversary(42). The resulting imagery, like the old Sydney coverage of his earliest years, expressed the romance of industry in general, with rich steam and light effects but with the scale and dynamism of the works retained to suit modern taste.

Other Pictorialists accommodated the Modernist landscape painting style of the late 1920s seen in the Art in Australia special landscape issue of 1927(43) and in the work of painters like Hans Heysen, Elioth Gruner and Max Meldrum (1875-1955) whose simplified broad shapes and outlined contours, flat colours and clear light suited the clean interior decoration and streamlined shapes of the new buildings of the 1930s(44). The rugged dry landscapes of Central Australia became popular in photography as a relief from the sylvan dells and recreational landscapes which constituted a staple fare of earlier years.

One of the earliest to explore the desert landscape was F. A. Joyner who accompanied Heysen on trips to the Flinders Ranges in 1927-1928. The experience revitalised Joyner, then in his sixties, and he produced a series of landscape studies with flattened forms which presented the drought-stricken country with an almost classical impartiality(45).

John B. Eaton (1881-1967) who was an active member of the Victorian Pictorial societies during the 1920s, also modernised his soft-focus landscape work, which was derived from the luminous cool tonalism of Frederick Evans (1852-1943), a member of the Linked Ring. Eaton’s Cattle tracks of 1934 achieved an Australian look. His later works became extremely graphic due to the use of a piece of sandblasted glass during the printing of his negatives to the point where they bordered on the abstract(46).

Harold Cazneaux became enamoured of his home state desert areas during his trips to the Flinders Ranges in 1935 and 1937. He made some of his boldest and most successful landscapes on these journeys, with large shapes placed in the centre of the image as in his most famous tree portrait, The Spirit of Endurance of 1937. It was originally titled A giant gum of the arid north, but was retitled following the death of his only son Harold at Tobruk in 1941. Cazneaux called it his most Australian picture(47).

Ironically, the sunshine school of Australian Pictorialism, first sought during World War One, was finally achieved through the impact of modernist painting in the 1920s and 1930s. However, the Pictorialists remained faithful to the naturalism and human interest in their work accommodating only those stylistic aspects of contemporary style which preserved these features. The ideology of modernism, which had a zealous enthusiasm for mechanisation, the marvels of cars and planes, and the monumental constructions of the new engineering and architectural works, was viewed with scepticism and some trepidation(48).

The young radicals of the turn of the century who had fought for the truth and beauty of soft-focus were middle aged in the 1930s. Cazneaux’s and Joyner’s creative work finished with their trips to the desert. Kauffmann in Melbourne in his sixties, responded to the new formalism of the 1930s by producing a series of close-up plant and floral studies which, despite their soft-focus, relate to the vogue for still life studies in Modernist photography in Europe and America. These were appreciated in his own lifetime by two quite different audiences. Ambrose Pratt wrote an article in 1933 on Kauffmann as an artist for Manuscripts, a small arts and letters journal. Pratt predicted Kauffmann would be honoured by future generations for his flower studies(49). One of which was used in The Home as an advertisement for hosiery in 1927(50).

Kauffmann had consistently produced images which were more sophisticated or subtle than those of his contemporaries. In later years he became embittered at the lack of recognition of his pioneering role and was regarded as rather old fashioned by younger photographers(51). Yet he was the first Australian photographer to have a monograph published. The Art of John Kauffmann (1919)(52) and his coverage in an arts and letters magazine was a testament denied to Cazneaux whose work remained in a nexus of Ure Smith’s publications and the Pictorial salons.

An awareness of a separate modern school of photography arrived with the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The New Photography or New Objectivity as it was known, had been greatly stimulated by photographers and film makers working during the heyday of the Weimar Republic in Germany between 1927—1933. The Neue Sachlich keit (new matter-of-factness) movement in the visual arts in Germany was also influential in focussing attention on the validity and pictorial power of commonplace subjects(53). Where Art Deco used geometric patterns and clear outlines to create decorative images, the New Photography used strong lighting, odd angles and close-ups to reveal the abstract forms in mundane objects and scenes. In doing so the subjects of the New Photography were often monumentalised and mystified while at the same time, expressing the transcendental-spiritual philosophies behind aspects of Modernism.(54)

The AP-R. received reports on the New Photography from its London correspondent, the Reverend H. 0. Fenton, who was both bemused and fascinated by The Modern Spirit exhibition held there in 1932. He cited F. J. Niortimer’s observation that, ‘Once a man photographed a room, now he takes the keyhole and makes an enlargement of it!(55). The editors of the A.P.-R. urged receptivity to the stimulus offered by the New Photography ‘the modern movement may influence the future trend of photography by extending the range of our visions.., and provide us with much needed stimulus(56).

Exposure to examples of modern work came directly from German magazines such as Dos Deutsche Lichtbild and English publications such as Modern Photography annuals which contained translated versions of the ideologies of the new style. Max Dupain was impressed by the writings of G. H. Saxon Mills in this publication, quoting them later in his own publications. Photography, he said:

belongs to the new age, its forms are mechanistic rather than naturalistic. It is part and parcel of the terrific and thrilling panorama opening out before us today of clean concrete buildings, steel radio masts, and the wings of the airliner. But its beauty is only for those who, themselves, are aware of the zeitgest—who belong consciously and proudly to this age, and have not their eyes fixed wistfully on the past(57).

There was as much chauvinism in Mills characterisation of the role of the New Photographer as the turn of the century Pictorialists’ who claimed to have a privileged perception of the beauty in nature. The New Photography would, he said, reveal 'the vivid and exciting reality behind the commonplace which alone we see’(58). The social and temporal meaning of a scene was not as important as the formal beauty it contained.

Different streams of modern photography were concerned less with abstract forms than with the social and humanistic meaning of the actual subjects encouraged by the New Photography

Other photographers in Australia were aware of Das Deutsche Lichtbild and of the concept of the photo-essay and documentary school of modern pho-tography. Axel Poignant (1906—1986) who ran a portrait studio in Perth, Western Australia, received copies of the German magazine from his aunt in England. By 1934-1935 he was experimenting with a photoessay on the Karri forest timber getters at Pemberton, inspired by European magazines which had adopted the new picture format. His break with the local Pictorialists like A. Knapp, came when Poignant discussed the impact of his work with sharp prints for aerial survey work in 1938. Knapp commented on ‘how painful it must have been to have to take sharp pictures’(59).

Modern formal styles of work began appearing in Pictorial salons in increasing numbers from the early 1930s. They provoked comment by the reviewers and others such as J. S. MacDonald (1878-1952), Director of the New South Wales Art Gallery, when he opened the New South Wales Photographic Society’s 1932 exhibition with an attack on modern art(60). The reviews in the press expressed reservation about the monotony of bromoils in the show and the lack of vigour and dramatic force.

Only a few works, BA. Musto’s Curves for example, were seen as experiments with the new machine forms that were popular with German and Japanese photographers(61).

The fifth international salon of the Victorian Salon in 1934 was reviewed by Cazneaux who noted the appearance of cold-toned glossy prints without enthusiasm and a lack of story elements(62). As early as 1930, in a review of the KODAK Fourth Annual International Salon shown in Sydney, Cazneaux contrasted the gentle world of Pictorialism with the jazzy pace of the metropolis:

What a contrast was there — the drop to the ground floor in the modern lift and being hustled by a modern crowd into the modern bustle of our modern city streets, where electric trains, motor cars, concrete and steel, colour and human beings seem all messed up and doing jazz! ... Here are subjects waiting to be treated. The jazz of moving shapes makes patterns on the street whilst up above against the sunset sky is the jazz-like serrated edge of the up and down masses of concrete and steel. What we cannot get in romantic old-world subjects in the modern youthful city (that is stamping out what little it has of the old), must be turned to account in exploiting its modern possibilities(63).

He was aware of the arguments of the anti-Modernists as were the members of the Sydney Camera Circle. In 1932 English photography critic F. C. Tilney (1864-1951) donated a large collection of early Pictorialist work to the Sydney Camera Circle, for whom he had acted as a paid critic. Tilney had published numerous books and reviews on Pictorial photography but gave up this work from 1926 on to devote himself to his broadsheet Art and Reason, which attacked modern art(64).

By 1935 the old and new schools were being counterpointed in The Home and in Art in Australia. Ure Smith included portfolios of work by the Sydney Camera Circle and Max Dupain in Art in Australia in June and November 1935. The Circle members’ bucolic landscapes were a world apart from Dupain’s nudes, light and form studies which showed the impact of J.T. Scoby’s book on European Modernist photography by Man Ray (1890— 1976) which Dupain had enthusiastically reviewed for The Home in October.

Dupain’s portfolio carried a quote from Saxon Mills’ essay of 1931 and The Home also carried a review of the latest Modern Photography 1935-1936(65). Ure Smith continued to support Cazneaux in his various publications but the increasing attention given to Dupain and a new generation of modern photographers, showed that a baton was being publicly handed from the old to the new styles.

>>>  footnotes

In 1938 the Pictorial salons were faced with a secession. For the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Australia’s foundation, the photographic societies organised a huge international salon, which they declared "The finest exhibition of modern photography ever displayed in Australia'(66).

Cazneaux, who was an organiser, selector and judge of the Pictorial section, also wrote a review for the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Art of the Camera — its Amazing Growth’ in which he took pride that Australian work was ‘up to date’ and ‘recognised by all the noted salons overseas’(67).

In a letter to the newspaper Dupain felt obliged to publicly expose the fallacy of ‘such unanimous acclamation of ourselves by ourselves!’ He pointed to the lack of exhibits in Australia by modern photographers like Man Ray, Professor Moholy-Nagy and Edouard Steichen. In the passionate tone of modern art manifestos Dupain opposed Cazneaux’s view saying:

Great art has always been contemporary in spirit. Today we feel the surge along aesthetic lines, the social economic order impinging itself on art, the repudiation of ‘truth to nature’ criterion, and the galvanising of art and psychology. Our little collection if it were truly rep-resentative, would reflect these elements of modern ad-venture and research, but it is not; it is a flaccid thing, a gentle narcotic, something to soothe our tired nerves after a weary day at the office!(68)

Three more letters dated 30 March were published by the paper defending the comprehensive nature of the exhibition which had categories for most scientific and artistic aspects of photography, including the minority of the Modern school. One from Arthur Smith quoted local anti-Modernist Norman Lindsay’s view that modern art led inevitably to ‘disruption in all forms, from war, anarchy and scepticism ... must overtake existence on earth'(69).

Cazneaux was drawn into the debate to reassert that the exhibition was both popular and representative of world photography. It was sane and progressive and salons could provide scope for all schools but also delivered a warning that:

if a few impetuous young workers influenced by the champions of ultra-modern thought, choose that for-mula of aesthetic . . . exploration along abstract lines’, then danger lurked in that ‘exploration’ is uncertain, and the ultimate destination is unknown(70).

In reaction to the controversy surrounding the sesquicentenary salon, Dupain and eleven other artists and pho-tographers formed the Contemporary Camera Groupe and held an exhibition of their work at the David Jones Gallery in December.

Curiously the ‘Groupe’ included Cazneaux as well as Pictorialists William G. Buckle, George J. Morris and Cecil Bostock who designed the catalogue and appended the ‘e’ to the group’s name. The catalogue contained a manifesto written by Dupain which was similar to The Linked Ring except in phraseology, as it expounded an alliance between photography and the other arts, the individuality of members yet their respect for ‘our masters who we love as well as proclaiming their progressiveness; ‘We hate the cliche, and would drive a wedge between stagnant orthodoxy and original thought of the living moment(71).

A notice for the exhibition had claimed that it was ‘prophetic in its modernity(72) but the titles suggest a lesser degree of difference from the Modernist works in Pictorial salons than the announcements indicated. Cecil Bostock exhibited a pure abstract in his Phenomena displayed in the window, and several large prints on the newly fashionable cold tone and glossy papers. George J. Morris exhibited large bromoil transfers of his European travels made from Leica small-format negatives. Cazneaux was represented mostly by landscapes and a rather forced modern piece Aerial antics(73). Dupain’s group of exhibits were portraits and nudes in a surrealistic vein including a work with a title from T.S. Eliot’s poetry(74).

The artists in the exhibition were graphic designer Douglas Annand (1903-1976), who included his designs for the booklet for the New York World Fair(75), A. E. Dodd and Louis Witts, also graphic illustrators. Dupain had contact with some of the artists attending night classes at Julian Ashton’s Art School and with John D. Moore and Rah Fizelle in these years.

The most significant aspect of the Contemporary Camera Groupe was the inclusion of the work of professional advertising and illustration photographers from the younger generation, Olive Cotton, Russell Roberts, Damien Parer and Laurence Le Guay. Their exhibits were only partially from any commercial jobs as such, but the source of their livelihood indicated the pattern of the future and the return of the pendulum of progressive work to the professional quarter. Like Dupain, their careers had effectively begun in the mid 1930s and were allied with Modernism.

In later life Cazneaux told Jack Cato that Pictorialism really finished in 1939(76). In 1947 W. H. Moffitt wrote an article for the AP.-R on ‘The Status of Pictorial Photography(77) which Cazneaux thought the best piece ever written(78). It was a defence of handwork and idealisation, however the movement it supported had rigor mortis and it was in reality a valediction.

 

 footnotes   |   contents   next chapter  |  search-shades


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

P.102: Harold Cazneaux, Sydney Camera Club members selecting prints. 1920s

P.104: Cecil W Bostock: The evening model, Spring 1929

P.104: Harold Cazneaux: Doris Zinkeisen, c.1929

P.105: Harold Cazneaux: Martin Place. 1925-1928

P.106: Harold Cazneaux: The bridge by Moonlight. 1932 (Book cover)

P.107: Henri Mallard: The White Ensign. 1921

P.108: Max Dupain: Industrial Landscape.1935

P.109: John Kauffmann: The Butterfly. c.1927

P.110: August Knapp: The Metal Turner, 1930s

P.112: Cecil W. Bostock: Phenomena c.1938

P.113: Harold Cazneaux: The Wheel of youth. 1929

P.114: George J. Morris: A misty day, New York, c.1921

 

 

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