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Australian art


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Self portrait - Harold Cazneaux



Harold Cazneaux

New Zealand, Australia

30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953


This is a rather conventional self-portrait except for the fact it is taken outdoors. Daniel Palmer argues that early twentieth-century Australian photographers’ self-portraits allude to a broadening of the practice of photography afforded by increasingly mobile and instant camera technology 1. Cazneaux is dressed smartly for the portrait in a three-piece suit and slim dark tie, but stares tentatively at his reflection. In one hand he holds a standard Box Camera, with concertina lens, and in the other the shutter release cable, poised to expose his own image.
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. Palmer D 2015, ‘The self- portrait in Australian photography’, in J Annear (ed) ‘The Photograph and Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney p 20
2. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85


Other Title

Self portrait with camera



Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


14.0 x 9.3 cm image/sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated lower verso, pencil "... HAROLD CAZNEAUX 1904".


Gift of Mrs Rainbow Johnson 1985


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Harold Cazneaux

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 271 (colour illus.).

Natasha Bullock, Harold Cazneaux: artist in photography, Sydney, 2008.

Valerie Hill, The Cazneaux Women, 'A way of life and a way of art 1900-1920s', pg.34-45, St Leonards, 2000, 8 (illus.), 40 (illus.).