This photograph of a labourer is taken at Milson’s Point Coal Depot, a re-fuelling stop for Sydney Harbour traffic 1. The man stands on the threshold of the doorway. His silhouette is lit from behind casting a long shadow across the foreground of the photo. The light, particularly where it illuminates the outline of his upper body, creates an aesthetic affect, which idealises the labourer as part of a non-industrialised scene.
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 2. 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. Geeves P and Newton G 1980, ‘Cazneaux’s Sydney 1904-1934’, The Daniel Ell Press, Sydney p 30
2. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85
gelatin silver photograph
30.0 x 24.6 cm image/sheet; 37.5 x 30.1 cm card
Signature & date
Signed l.r. card, pencil "H. Cazneaux". Not dated. [Query signature possibly by Beryl Cazneaux]
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
Harold Cazneaux, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Dec 1989–11 Mar 1990
Referenced in 1 publication
Unknown and Gael Newton, Philip Geeves presents Cazneaux's Sydney 1904-1934, Sydney, 1980, 30, 31 (illus.). plate no. 31