When earth & sea & sky combine, Centennial Park, Sydney
15 Oct 1885 - 16 Jan 1962
Frank Hurley was a celebrated and intrepid documentarian of Antarctica and the two World Wars. A hobbyist turned professional photographer, Hurley began working in Harry Cave’s postcard business in 1905. He travelled to Antarctica on expeditions led by Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir Ernest Shackleton and in 1917 was appointed the Official Photographer of the Australian Imperial Forces. He photographed military campaigns on the Western Front and in the Middle East during WWI.
In the early 20th century, postcards superseded carte de visites in popularity and circulation. Mass-produced and easily distributed, postcards allowed photographers to develop a lucrative market for their professional output. While working with Cave, Hurley earned a reputation for picturesque views but also daredevil stunts and dangerous subjects. His ‘Power and Speed’ series was comprised of photographs taken while positioned on the tracks facing a fast approaching train with his camera pointed directly at the engine. Once he had taken a photograph at close range, Hurley would grab his tripod and leap out of the way.
Hurley eventually bought into Cave’s business and the two became partners. Under the name Cave & Hurley, the studio prospered and, by Hurley’s estimation in 1945, allegedly produced up to 10,000 cards a day. ‘When earth & sea & sky combine, Centennial Park, Sydney’ is an example of Hurley’s well known night scenes. It demonstrates his command over subjects with limited light sources and his penchant for dramatic compositions. Like many postcards produced at this time, the image has been hand coloured. Divided backs became a standard postcard feature in 1907, a fact that impacts the date attributed to this work.