The bent tree, Narrabeen
New Zealand, Australia
30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953
The bromoil process is used in The bent tree, Narrabeen to enhance the moody and stormy atmosphere of the scene. A bromoil print is created through an intervention in the printing process when a gelatin silver photograph is bleached and fixed, then soaked in water. A greasy ink is then applied and gradually built up to the required density 1. The suggestion of treacherous weather is reinforced by the two bent over trees in the frame. In 1914 the beach was yet to be considered a quintessentially Australian place of sun-kissed leisure2.
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 3. 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. Baldwin G 1991, ‘Looking at photographs: a guide to technical terms’, J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles pp 11-12
2. Crombie I 2004, Body Culture: Max Dupain, Photography and Australian Culture, 1919-1939, Peleus Press, Mulgrave, pp 179-90
3. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85
14.6 x 18.9 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Signed l.r. original mount, pencil "H. Cazneaux". Dated verso original mount, pencil "...1914".
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Not on display
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Project 7 - Harold Cazneaux: 1878 - 1953 (1975), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 1975–28 Sep 1975
Harold Cazneaux, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Dec 1989–11 Mar 1990
Celebrating Paradise - The artist and the Northern Beaches: 1890-2000, Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Manly, 10 Dec 1999–30 Jan 2000
Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 2008–10 Aug 2008
Referenced in 3 publications
Natasha Bullock, Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography, Sydney, 2008.
Heather Johnson, Celebrating Paradise - The artist and the Northern Beaches: 1890 to 2000, 'Looking back - early artists of the Northern Beaches, 1890-1950', pg. 3-10, Manly, 1999, 3-4, 20.
Gael Newton, Project 7: Harold Cazneaux 1878 - 1953, Sydney, 1975. cat.no. 13