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Australian art


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Surry Hills, Sydney

circa 1911


Harold Cazneaux

New Zealand, Australia

30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953


Surry Hills, Sydney presents a dramatic and romantic vision of life in the inner city during the first decade of the twentieth century. Helen Ennis argues that Australian pictorialist photographers, such as Cazneaux, looked for poetic possibilities in photographic practice. They gravitated toward picturing and constructing timeless landscapes that transported the viewer away from the pace and pressures of urban life 1. Surry Hills, Sydney encapsulates this aesthetic predilection. The arc of the tree branch curves through the middle of the picture, re-framing the lone man in the centre. His form is further accentuated by the soft light that falls diagonally across the picture stopping at, and thus spotlighting, his form. These elements of the composition give the picture the feeling of being purposefully staged rather than fleetingly or incidentally captured.
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. Ennis H 2007, ‘Photography and Australia’, Reaktion Books, London p 62
2. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85



circa 1911

Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


18.4 x 22.2 cm image/sheet

Signature & date

Signed c. verso, ink "H Cazneaux". Not dated.


Gift of Mr L.G. Clark 1993


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Harold Cazneaux

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history