An image of Portrait of an operator, Freeman's studio

Harold Cazneaux

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

Portrait of an operator, Freeman's studio

Location
Not on display
Further information

The photograph provides insight into the commercial portraitist’s milieu. It was taken at Cazneaux’s workplace highlighting both the cumbersome nature of early twentieth century studio technologies and the relatively cloistered environment of the studio space. The camera stand dominates the view, its wheels allowing for mobility in choosing the distance and angle of the shot. The operator looks intensely the subject out of frame calculating the moment to release the shutter.
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. 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

Year
circa 1907
Media
Photograph
Medium
gelatin silver photograph
Dimensions
29.0 x 22.0 cm image/sheet
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Credit
Purchased 1985
Accession number
310.1985