An image of Untitled (hurrying figures in Martin Place)

Harold Cazneaux

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

Untitled (hurrying figures in Martin Place)

Not on display
Further information

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.
Despite the many interventionist practices associated with pictorialist photography, Cazneaux claimed that ‘selection [of the scene] was the foundational principle of artistic photography’ 2. His philosophy is evident in this image which incorporates a great level of theatricality into its otherwise impromptu scene. Sunlight funnels through the buildings in the back left-hand corner casting a spotlight on the six people walking down the pavement. Their forms are further accentuated by the long shadows their bodies throw toward the foreground of the frame. The luminous silhouettes of the walking party are thus dramatically highlighted in comparison to the shadowy figures weaving between the carriages and trams, beyond the sun’s reach, on the far side of the important civic space.
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. Quoted in: Miller S 2007, ‘Chapter 4: Australian Pictorialism’ in, ‘Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection Handbook’, Sydney p 78

gelatin silver photograph
7.3 x 10.2 cm image/sheet
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of the Cazneaux family 1985
Accession number