Preparation for departure
New Zealand, Australia
30 Mar 1878 - 19 Jun 1953
Circular Quay, The Rocks and the Hickson Road piers were working ports in the first decades of the twentieth century accepting a heavy traffic of maritime craft. Before the Harbour Bridge’s completion in 1932, Milson’s point hosted a coal depot and was a popular re-fuelling stop for Harbour traffic 1. Ships and water scenes were fertile subjects for pictoralists, like Cazneaux, who were interested in how smog, haze and cloud cover could be enhanced to generate a painterly aesthetic for their pictures. Watercraft also provided the opportunity to experiment with line, through the curved contours of rigging and the shadows of masts that could be made to intersect and stretch across the frame 2.
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 3. 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. Geeves P and Newton G 1980, ‘Cazneaux’s Sydney 1904-1934’, The Daniel Ell Press, Sydney p 30
2. Miles M 2015, ‘The Language of Light and Dark: Light and Place in Australian Photography’, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal p 123
3. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85
gelatin silver photograph
19.2 x 29.8 cm image; 18.9 x 30.4 cm sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Cazneaux family 1990
Not on display
Referenced in 1 publication
City West Development Corporation, Doors Were Always Open - Recollections of Pyrmont and Ultimo, Pyrmont, 1997, cover (illus.).