An image of Steam and sunshine, Newcastle BHP

Harold Cazneaux

(New Zealand, Australia 30 Mar 1878 – 19 Jun 1953)

Steam and sunshine, Newcastle BHP

Not on display
Further information

An English reviewer wrote of the photographs Cazneaux was commissioned to make for the BHP company in 1934: ‘I heartily disagree with his excursions into industrial subjects … whatever value these records of steel-making and the like may have for commercial purposes, their interest is as records and not as pictures … Mr Cazneaux does not approach them from a pictorial angle.’1 It is difficult today to understand the nature of this criticism, as ‘Steam and sunshine, Newcastle BHP’ sits clearly within the pictorialist tradition. Perhaps at the time Cazneaux’s contrasts were thought too sharp and his strong geometric composition too consciously modern. Certainly, a younger generation of ‘modernist’ photographers during the 1930s were looking to industrial subjects for inspiration. Max Dupain, a leader of this group, began his studies of Pyrmont silos in 1932. Industrial subjects, however, were not new to Cazneaux. He had taken images of commerce on Darling Harbour and in the Pyrmont Marshalling Yards as early as 1909–10 and even during the 1920s he was using angles and compositional devices which foreshadowed a more modernist style. In many ways, Cazneaux’s BHP photographs reveal his ability and willingness to work across stylistic boundaries. Here he blends pictorialist focus with a modernist sense of space, form and geometry, in much the same way American photographer Edward Weston did.

1. Dudley Johnston J 1936, ‘London news and doings’, ‘Australasian Photo-Review’, 2 Nov p 536

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

gelatin silver photograph
37.1 x 27.7 cm image/sheet
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Accession number