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An image of What is it? Taieri Beach (New Zealand) by Norman C Deck

Norman C Deck

(Australia 29 May 1882 – 31 Aug 1980)

What is it? Taieri Beach (New Zealand)
Media category
Materials used
gelatin silver photograph

29.4 x 22.7 cm image/sheet; 40.4 x 30.9 cm board

Signature & date
Not signed. Dated l.l. board, pencil and c. verso board, ink "...1909".
Gift of the artist 1977
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

One reviewer thought that Norman Deck’s landscapes were ‘the very essence of Arcadianism’.1 It is arguable whether his imaginative view of the landscape was Arcadian. Living simply in the Pacific, he would return to Australia and lament the devastation wrought on the environment by ‘progress’. It was this love of the unspoilt and untamed which was the source of his attachment to New Zealand. He had spent six months there as a boy and made extended trips around both islands in 1909, 1911 and 1921, photographing extensively. He thought the photographs he took from McKinnon Pass to Milford Sound were some of his finest. Many of Deck’s non-landscape subjects were depictions of figures on the beach. Although he had painterly models for this work, such as William Margetson’s popular ‘The sea hath its pearls’ 1897 in the collection of the AGNSW, the simplicity with which he handles a potentially contrived subject, the quality of light and his straightforward photographic approach make this one of his most distinctive and memorable images.

1. 1911, ‘Photographic Society of NSW exhibition: a critical survey’, Harrington’s Photographic Journal, 22 May p 141

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

Bibliography (5)

Natasha Bullock (Curator), Soft shadows and sharp lines: Australian photography from Cazneaux to Dupain, Sydney, 2002. no catalogue numbers

Sandra Byron, Fine and Mostly Sunny: Photographs from the collection, Sydney, 1991. 13

Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian pictorialism', pg.71-91, Sydney, 2007, 81 (illus.).

Gael Newton, Australian Pictorial Photography, Melbourne, 1979, 18. 35

Wayne Tunnicliffe, Bridled Passions, Sydney, 1996. no catalogue numbers

Exhibition history (4)

Australian Pictorial Photography:

Fine and mostly sunny: photographs from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 28 Sep 1991–01 Dec 1991

Bridled Passions, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Nov 1996–02 Feb 1997

Soft Shadows and Sharp Lines: Australian photography from Cazneaux to Dupain, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Sep 2002–17 Nov 2002