An image of Mask and model (Gayfield Shaw)

Harold Cazneaux

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

Mask and model (Gayfield Shaw)

Not on display
Further information

Gayfield Shaw (1885-1961) was a prominent figure on the Sydney art scene following the First World War. He worked as a print maker and etcher, and was the director of a gallery on Elizabeth Street, Sydney 1. Cazneaux has captured Shaw in this portrait using Rembrandt lighting, where the main profile features of a subject are illuminated with a pencil of light from one side of the frame 2. Other detail is left obscured in rich dark tones. This compositional choice emphasises the sense of verisimilitude between the live face and the mould. The angle of Shaw’s head in relation to the wall gives the appearance of him emerging from the cast in an inversion of process behind the mask’s creation.
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. Advertisement Gayfield Shaw Studio, ‘Art in Australia’, February 1922
2. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 92
3. Ibid p 85

circa 1918
gelatin silver photograph
36.8 x 27.9 cm image/sheet
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Accession number