Untitled (man with pram, George Street)
New Zealand, Australia
30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953
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 pictorialist fascination with soft shadows and lyrical pattern-making is central to this photograph 2. The primary subject dominates the direct centre of the view. His stride straddles the line of shadow thrown by an adjacent building. This accentuates his opacity, as he remains on the shadowed side while, conversely, light baths the commuters on the side-walk ahead of him. The graduations of light shift through a third phase when falling on the buildings in the background which are illuminated in a soft focus so as to appear almost ethereal. Yet, smaller details also make this an interesting image. The similarity in form and shadow of the wheels on the carriage and the wheels of the pram create a geometric mimicry in the centre of the frame, further transforming an otherwise mundane scene.
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
2. Ibid p 104
gelatin silver photograph
24.9 x 24.7 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1990
Not on display
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Referenced in 1 publication
My city of Sydney, Sydney, 2000. no pagination or catalogue numbers