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Australian art


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Mountain scene, Katoomba



Harold Cazneaux

New Zealand, Australia

30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953


Mountain scene, Katoomba is a crisp photograph of two women resting in the Blue Mountains bushland. The woman ascending the stairs is Cazneaux’s wife, Mabel Winifred, whom he meet shortly after moving to Sydney and while working at Freeman’s studio. The woman seated on the bench is Mary Peisley, Cazneaux’s cousin 1. Despite their varying distance from the camera, the women mirror elements of one another’s poses. They are both photographed side-on with an arm outstretched toward Cazneaux, holding onto the wooden railing and seat-back, respectively. The midday sun falls through the canopy of trees, illuminating the up-turned leaves and the smooth wooden surface of the stairs.
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. Correspondence with Cazneaux family, 27 June 2016
2. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85




Media category


Materials used



11.7 x 9.7 cm image/sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Beryl Cazneaux 1985


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Harold Cazneaux

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Gavin Wilson, Picturing the Great Divide: visions from Australia's Blue Mountains, Katoomba, 2012, 36, 37 (illus.), 113.