BIOGRAPHY MAX DUPAIN born 1911 [deceased 1992]
Spencer Dupain was born in Sydney, where his father operated a modern
gymnasium in the 1920s. He became
interested in photography
around the age of fourteen. On leaving Sydney Grammar School in 1930
he began a three-year apprenticeship in Cecil Bostock’s studio.
In 1934 Dupain established his own studio in Bond Street.
he moved to a new studio in Castlereagh Street in partnership with
and Hyde process engravers. Over thirty years later, the partnership
still continues to operate, from a studio in Artarmon.
Dupain joined the Photographic Society of New South Wales in 1928 and began
around 1930. His early work was in the pictorial
but in 1933 Dupain began to photograph industrial forms such as
silos in a way totally alien to the pictorialists.
The new images
geometric form and were outlined and accentuated by clear hard
light rather than romanticised by atmospheric effects. He was influenced
by the New Photography or New Objectivity movement in photography
which developed first in Germany between 1927 and 1933.
generation, Dupain rejected the romantic preoccupation with picturesque
subjects and turned to developing a style in tune with contemporary
life in the machine age.
the 1930s Dupain pioneered modern photography in Australia. His photographs
explored and exposed the
formal structure of the
world around him - showing the recumbent figure of a sunbaker
as a monumental
triangle in plate 78, or the abstract shape of a silo against
the sky in plate 64, with equal strength and drama.
His nude studies
the skeletal form beneath the flesh as in plate 67 or 68 where
montage printing is used to show the parallel in shape between
and the shell spiral.
like Cazneaux, found a patron in the publisher Sydney Ure Smith who
regularly used his commercial
and personal photographs
in The Home
magazine and presented a portfolio of work in the Art in Australia
journal in 1935.
1938 Dupain had a reputation as a leading commercial photographer
in fashion, advertising and portrait
work. He was exhibiting
regularly in photographic salons and many of the pictures of
show Dupain ‘s admiration for the work of modern European
photographers such as Man Ray and Lázló Moholy-Nagy
and for surrealism.
In 1938 Dupain instigated the Contemporary
Camera Groupe, partly in
protest at the continued dominance of pictorialism, which was
by then a reactionary style which paid scant attention to the
new world or
1943 and 1944 Dupain was on war service as a photographer in the
camouflage unit and spent
time in New Guinea, before
transferring to the Department of Information in 1945 to
undertake an assignment
to photograph Australia for promotional purposes. Dupain
was influenced by the documentary movement in film, which had a
on still photographers in the late 1940s.
His friend Damien
Parer, a war photographer and film maker, had introduced
Dupain to the
ideas of the documentary movement and its concern with factual,
yet penetrating observation of the real world. Dupain was
with making images which revealed the forms in the environment
and decided to concentrate on industrial and architectural
he returned to his studio in 1947.
studio had been kept going during his absence by his first wife Olive
Cotton (q.v.), from whom he had separated in 1941.
Dupain ceased working in fashion and advertising, which
superficial subjects after the war years. His documentary
work of this period is
exemplified by “Meat Queue” (plate 94).
the 1950s, Dupain developed his approach to photographing
industrial and architectural form. As well he continued
to work in portraiture
and landscape both professionally and personally. In
1954 he was part of the “Six Photographers” group
which asserted the value of direct treatment of the world
with a personal interpretation in
the face of the prevalence of slick advertising and fashion
photography of the time.
the 1960s Dupain continued to develop his professional and personal
work. His architectural
work became more
he sought to
distil the essence of the forms which he began exploring
in the early 1930s.
Dupain has held several retrospective exhibitions since
1975 when his first major one-man show was held at
A monograph on his work is to be published in 1980
and he was made an Affiliate of the Royal Australian Institute
his contribution to architectural photography the same
based on Gaël Newton's Silver & Grey Angus and Roberston, Australia 1980
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