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Australian art


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The bamboo blind



Harold Cazneaux

New Zealand, Australia

30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953


‘The bamboo blind’ is a breakthrough work in Cazneaux’s oeuvre. It is the first portrait he made that plays with the interaction between the bright Australian sunlight and the human subject. ‘The bamboo blind’ was taken a year before Cazneaux and others set up the Sydney Camera Circle in order to move pictorialism out of its dark European tones and into an effect which had more in common with Australian light.1 The subject is Cazneaux’s daughter Beryl and there are two extant versions of the image – one with the girl smiling and this one in the collection of the AGNSW. The smiling version appeared in the first issue of ‘The Hom’e magazine in 1920 where Cazneaux was official photographer until 1941.

Despite his financial dependence on commercial photography throughout his working life, Cazneaux was determined to further photography as an art form. He was a relentless innovator in relation to pictorialism, perfecting the difficult pictorialist techniques and applying them to the Australian context. The marriage of pictorialist values with early modernism in ‘The bamboo blind’ reveals what became Cazneaux’s signature style. As Gael Newton has pointed out, this was probably accidental given the limited exposure Australian photographers had to modernist developments originating in the northern hemisphere.2 However, a break with the past had occurred and Australia, through Cazneaux, developed a unique photographic style.

1. Newton G 1988, 'Shades of light: photography and Australia 1839–1988', Australian National Gallery, Canberra/Collins Australia, Sydney p 92
2. Newton G 1979, 'Australian pictorial photography', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney p 4

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




Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


27.9 x 21.3 cm image/sheet; 29.7 x 23.0 cm card

Signature & date

Signed and dated verso card, pencil "1915/ H Cazneaux".


Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Harold Cazneaux

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 6 publications


Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The photograph and portraiture', pg.15-31, Sydney, 2007, 19, 27 (illus.).

Natasha Bullock, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, 'Harold Cazneaux's New Idea portraits', pg.92-97, Sydney, 2013, 92. not exhibited

Natasha Bullock, Look, 'Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography', pg.28-31, Sydney, Jun 2008, 28 (illus.), 31.

Natasha Bullock (Curator), Soft shadows and sharp lines: Australian photography from Cazneaux to Dupain, Sydney, 2002. no pagination or catalogue numbers

Valerie Hill, The Cazneaux Women, 'Matrix and fragments of influence 1690s-1900s', pg.18-33, St Leonards, 2000, 22, 42, 49 (illus.), 75, 123.

Gael Newton, Project 7: Harold Cazneaux 1878 - 1953, Sydney, 1975. 12