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Australian art


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Meat queue, Sydney

1946, printed later


Max Dupain


22 Apr 1911 - 27 Jul 1992


‘Meat queue, Sydney’ was one in a series of pictures Sydney photographer Max Dupain undertook for the Department of Information. When interviewed by curator Helen Ennis in 1991 Dupain said:
We were doing a story on queues after the war. They were all over the place – queues for buses, vegetables, fruit. I just happened to come across this butcher shop in Pitt Street, I think it was. Here they were all lined up, and I went around it, took a number of pictures, ultimately ending up with this sort of architectural approach with four of five females all dressed in black with black hats, not looking too happy about the world. Suddenly one of them breaks the queue when I’m focused up all ready to go, pure luck. 1

The solidity of the linear figures taken from mid distance beneath a meat coupon scale which will weigh a proportion of meat with the allowable coupons democratises the women. The picture is given a sudden focus as the central figure decides to move from the queue and unwanted contact is made with the woman ahead. Described as both a documentary photograph, but not necessarily a social comment, the economic food-rationing of postwar Australia is shown in this clear modernist image of black-and-white shapes in shallow space. Form rather than content defines this image. The central figure in a lighter coloured coat is balanced on either side by the darker coats as the black hats, which make a wave along the horizontal, parallel the line of meat hooks.

1. Ennis H 1991, ‘Max Dupain: photographs’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 18

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



1946, printed later

Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


45.3 x 65.1 cm image/sheet; 52.8 x 72.7 cm board

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. and u.c. verso board, pencil "Max Dupain '46".


Purchased 1976


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Max Dupain

Works in the collection


Shown in 7 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian modernism', pg.131-149, Sydney, 2007, 137, 189, 197 (illus.).

Natasha Bullock, Look, 'The photo as document', pg.24-7, Sydney, Jun 2004, 24.

Natasha Bullock, Australian postwar photodocumentary, Sydney, 2004. no catalogue numbers

Louise Chamberlin, Art In Sight, Sydney, 1996, 141, 144, 145, 149, 151, 155, 171.

Ewen McDonald, AGNSW Collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 58 (illus.).

Gael Newton, Silver and Grey - Fifty Years of Australian Photography 1900-1950, 1980. plate no. 94

Gael Newton, Max Dupain retrospective 1930-1980, Sydney, 1980. 68