Steam and sunshine, Newcastle BHP
New Zealand, Australia
30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953
An English reviewer wrote of the photographs Cazneaux was commissioned to make for the BHP company in 1934: ‘I heartily disagree with his excursions into industrial subjects … whatever value these records of steel-making and the like may have for commercial purposes, their interest is as records and not as pictures … Mr Cazneaux does not approach them from a pictorial angle.’1 It is difficult today to understand the nature of this criticism, as ‘Steam and sunshine, Newcastle BHP’ sits clearly within the pictorialist tradition. Perhaps at the time Cazneaux’s contrasts were thought too sharp and his strong geometric composition too consciously modern. Certainly, a younger generation of ‘modernist’ photographers during the 1930s were looking to industrial subjects for inspiration. Max Dupain, a leader of this group, began his studies of Pyrmont silos in 1932. Industrial subjects, however, were not new to Cazneaux. He had taken images of commerce on Darling Harbour and in the Pyrmont Marshalling Yards as early as 1909–10 and even during the 1920s he was using angles and compositional devices which foreshadowed a more modernist style. In many ways, Cazneaux’s BHP photographs reveal his ability and willingness to work across stylistic boundaries. Here he blends pictorialist focus with a modernist sense of space, form and geometry, in much the same way American photographer Edward Weston did.
1. Dudley Johnston J 1936, ‘London news and doings’, ‘Australasian Photo-Review’, 2 Nov p 536
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
gelatin silver photograph
37.1 x 27.7 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Not on display
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Australian Pictorial Photography:
- S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks 12 Jun 1979–08 Jul 1979
- The Victorian College of the Arts Gallery, South Bank 08 Aug 1979–31 Aug 1979
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 01 Dec 1979–30 Jan 1980
Harold Cazneaux, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Dec 1989–11 Mar 1990
Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 2008–10 Aug 2008
Sydney Moderns, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jul 2013–07 Oct 2013
Referenced in 7 publications
Judy Annear, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, 'Modernist photography: the machine age in Sydney', pg.184-191, Sydney, 2013, 187 (illus.). not exhibited
Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian pictorialism', pg.71-91, Sydney, 2007, 88 (illus.).
Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Jun 2008, 30 (illus.).
Unknown, Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography, Sydney, 2008.
Gael Newton, Silver and Grey - Fifty Years of Australian Photography 1900-1950, 1980. plate no. 50
Picturing Australia - A History of Photography, Sydney, 1988, 177. fig.no. 111
Gael Newton, Australian Pictorial Photography, Melbourne, 1979, 8, 17. cat.no. 28