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Australian art


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Untitled (dray horses in lane)

circa 1908


Harold Cazneaux

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.
In this photograph, Cazneaux makes use of the low light funnelling through the laneway to construct a moody impressionist scene. He shot the picture looking into the sun. This compositional choice silhouettes the loitering men and darkens the carriages and horses. Cazneaux preferred the use of a small camera for his streetscapes, feeling that this equipment allowed him the spontaneity to choose and capture subjects swiftly and while in motion. Gael Newton has argued that few photographers could rival his ability to shoot figures and crowds in a manner which truly animated rather than froze the scene 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. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85
2. Ibid p 87



circa 1908

Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


17.5 x 22.7 cm image/sheet

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of the Cazneaux family 1990


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Harold Cazneaux

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Michael Wardell, My city of Sydney, Sydney, 2000. no pagination or catalogue numbers