Filmmaker John Grierson's now famous definition of documentary as ‘creative treatment of actuality’ inspired Max Dupain. ‘At the procession’ isolates the figures, seemingly by accident, as the camera reduces the group from the crowd and reveals a complex social construction of three people in the foreground with one behind. The observers of the procession, one of whom notices the photographer, are now observed by the viewer. Dupain wrote in 1950: ‘the moment round about the time of exposure is the most emotionally intense period for the photographer, when the psychic interplay between subject and operator is at its highest level.’ 1
The viewer can socially participate in this spontaneous captured moment. The three figures of man, child and woman in the foreground suggest a family unit and, from the title, leisure and a day out. The father and child represent a social renewal, as the men are free, no longer a part of military processions commonly seen during the war years. Standing on steps to gain a better view, the group forms a solid triangular shape with the child at the apex representing the future, or possibly a generational sacrifice to a future war. This human geometric composition taken from a low viewpoint is underpinned by the small triangular shapes of collars and hats as the clean whites zigzag up the image. The politics of the postwar years emphasised the family, repositioning women into the home to be supported by male breadwinners. Here the arrow-like hat points to and suggests a socially secure future.
1. Newton G 1980, ‘Max Dupain: photographs 1928–1980’, David Ell Press, Sydney p 33
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
gelatin silver photograph, vintage
40.4 x 40.5 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. image, pencil "Max Dupain '52".
Not on display
Shown in 9 exhibitions
Maitland Annual Exhibition of Photography 1951, Exhibition Venue Unknown, 1951–1951
Ten years on, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Jan 1986–Jan 1986
Shades of Light, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes, 1988–1988
Works from the Photography Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Feb 1989–15 May 1989
Four Photographers, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Jun 1990–19 Aug 1990
Max Dupain - An Appreciation, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 11 Aug 1992–30 Aug 1992
We Are Family, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Oct 1994–20 Nov 1994
Australian postwar photodocumentary, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jun 2004–08 Aug 2004
6 photographers, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Dec 2009–Feb 2010
Referenced in 3 publications
Rose Peel, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian postwar photo-documentary', pg.189-207, Sydney, 2007, 190, 191 (illus.), 193, 198 (illus.).
Unknown, Australian postwar photodocumentary, Sydney, 2004. no catalogue numbers
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Photography', pg. 48-55, Sydney, 1984, 52 (illus.).