Untitled (Pyrmont bridge at dusk)
New Zealand, Australia
30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953
Harold Cazneaux was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1878. His parents, Pierce Mott Cazneau and Emma Florence (née Bentley) worked in commercial studios in New Zealand before returning to settle permanently in Adelaide during the early 1890s. At the age of 18 Cazneaux went to work alongside his father at Hammer & Co studio as a retoucher. He moved to Sydney in 1904 to join the larger portrait firm, Freeman’s quickly ascending to the position of ‘chief operator’ (as camera portraitists were known). Studio work was highly formulaic, with little scope for creativity. Cazneaux used his time walking to and from work to experiment with pictorialist aesthetics 1.
(The new) Pyrmont Bridge, was opened on 28 June 1902 less than a decade before Cazneaux took this photograph. It was a thoroughly modern and industrial icon in the city. It harnessed power from Ultimo Powerhouse and incorporated a 54 foot swing bridge which opened in under a minute to let shipping traffic through 2. However, Cazneaux’s impression of the Bridge, mitigates its modern credentials and represents it as part of a more timeless topography. The sky is captured in a quintessential pictorialist vein with a focus on the dappling of soft light in amongst the clouds. The horizon is shadowed as an undulating series of buildings, spires and domed rooftops. Cazneaux recalls waiting for a moment of calm on the Bridge to capture this photograph, and thus he depicts a rather sleepy vision of an otherwise busy thoroughfare 3. These choices in composition and focus combine to produce a romantic vision of this relatively new city landmark.
The Photographic Society of New South Wales organised an exhibition of Cazneaux’s photographs in 1909, the first such solo exhibition of its kind in Australia. In 1916 he and fellow pictorialist photographer, Cecil Bostock founded the Sydney Camera Circle. The group was particularly interested in the how pictorialism could be adapted to and extended within an Australian context. The mechanised, standardised and frenetic pace of Freeman’s increasingly took its toll on Cazneaux’s creativity and health, and he resigned in 1917. He moved with his wife and daughters to the Sydney suburb of Roseville, and in 1920 he was employed as the official photographer for The Home magazine. This new position let him work in a varied indoor and outdoor environments. In 1938 Cazneaux was awarded an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of London. He continued to work until his death in 1953.
1. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85
2. The New Pyrmont Bridge, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, 30 June 1902 p 3
3. Cazneaux H 1909, ‘Comments on the “One-Man” Show’, unpublished manuscript, MS8361, Folder 7, National Library of Australia, Canberra p 11
brown carbon photograph
7.0 x 9.5 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1979
Not on display