Now and Then (Freeman's Studio)
New Zealand, Australia
30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953
This album comprises twelve small gelatin silver photographs taken at Cazneaux’s first Sydney workplace: Freeman’s photographic studio. The album provides a light-hearted commentary on the manipulative and technical aspects of commercial portrait making in the opening years of the twentieth century. Cazneaux uses this collection to expand the field of view, turning the camera around to expose the portrait practice itself. His photographs show a practitioner occupied in re-touching (a); the cumbersome equipment used in the portrait studio and, the playful and sometimes ridiculous elements of staging. We see a curtained light-box (i; j) used to coordinate the intensity of light which fell on the subject, illuminating aspects of their form and shading others. The rustic wooden walls of the studio are in contrast to the variously decorative and minimalist backdrops employed in the photographic process. Some patrons opt to pose in front of a plain sheet while others choose the more elaborate setting of Greco-Roman columns and romantic shrubbery. On the one hand, this album is evidence of the stilted formality of the photographic portrait experience as well as the playfulness of fooling around in front of and behind the camera. On the other hand, this collection depicts the multi-faceted nature of the portraitist’s craft. It illuminates the attention to detail and lighting necessary for intimate bust shots, the fiddly work of resolution and the artistic prowess which goes into retouching.
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 1. 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. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85
portfolio: 4 leaves, 12 gelatin silver photographs
4 leaves: 19.0 x 15.8 cm each leaf; 19.0 x 64.7 cm overall card :
a - A little more yet, 9 x 4.7 cm, image/sheet [oval]
b - Still Please, 6.3 x 9.6 cm, image/sheet
c - We change places, 8.9 x 6.4 cm, image/sheet [oval]
d - Operating, 6.4 x 8.9 cm, image/sheet [oval]
e - Discovered, 4.8 x 5.6 cm, image/sheet
f - Ta la Caz, 8 x 4 cm, image/sheet
g - Ta la Mac, 7.8 x 4 cm, image/sheet
h - A night out, 5 x 6.9 cm, image/sheet [oval]
i - That's splendid. Still !, 6.4 x 8.9 cm, image/sheet [oval]
j - Not so serious Caz, 6.3 x 8.9 cm, image/sheet [oval]
k - Discovered after the night out, 6.7 x 7 cm, image/sheet
l - Trimming, 6.7 x 7 cm, image/sheet [oval]
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Mrs Rainbow Johnson 1985
Not on display