An image of The bamboo blind

Harold Cazneaux

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

The bamboo blind

Not on display
Further information

‘The bamboo blind’ is a breakthrough work in Cazneaux’s oeuvre. It is the first portrait he made that plays with the interaction between the bright Australian sunlight and the human subject. ‘The bamboo blind’ was taken a year before Cazneaux and others set up the Sydney Camera Circle in order to move pictorialism out of its dark European tones and into an effect which had more in common with Australian light.1 The subject is Cazneaux’s daughter Beryl and there are two extant versions of the image – one with the girl smiling and this one in the collection of the AGNSW. The smiling version appeared in the first issue of ‘The Hom’e magazine in 1920 where Cazneaux was official photographer until 1941.

Despite his financial dependence on commercial photography throughout his working life, Cazneaux was determined to further photography as an art form. He was a relentless innovator in relation to pictorialism, perfecting the difficult pictorialist techniques and applying them to the Australian context. The marriage of pictorialist values with early modernism in ‘The bamboo blind’ reveals what became Cazneaux’s signature style. As Gael Newton has pointed out, this was probably accidental given the limited exposure Australian photographers had to modernist developments originating in the northern hemisphere.2 However, a break with the past had occurred and Australia, through Cazneaux, developed a unique photographic style.

1. Newton G 1988, 'Shades of light: photography and Australia 1839–1988', Australian National Gallery, Canberra/Collins Australia, Sydney p 92
2. Newton G 1979, 'Australian pictorial photography', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney p 4

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

gelatin silver photograph
27.9 x 21.3 cm image/sheet; 29.7 x 23.0 cm card
Signature & date

Signed and dated verso card, pencil "1915/ H Cazneaux".

Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Accession number