Untitled (River landscape)
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. Yet, Cazneaux used his time outside work to experiment with various photographic techniques.
This photograph was taken early in Cazneaux’s career and is shot beyond the urban sprawl of his day-to-day lifestyle. A moody atmosphere is created in the frame through the combination of the low-lying clouds and the darkened, almost formless silhouettes of the Australian bush. The extreme soft focus, a classic pictorialist technique, gives this image an impressionist character 1. The only light in the photo is a single band escaping from beneath the cloud cover, along the horizon. It passes through the image, illuminating only the very top branches of the trees and reflecting a silvery slither of light along the creek’s surface.
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 90
gelatin silver photograph
7.6 x 15.1 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1990
Not on display