Posts Tagged ‘Australian modernist photography

08
Nov
20

Photographs: Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) Part 1

November 2020

 

Max Dupain. 'Sydney Harbour Crepuscule' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sydney Harbour Crepuscule
1937
Gelatin silver print
32.5 x 47cm

 

Noun. crépuscule m (plural crépuscules) twilight, dusk (the time of the day when the sun sets)

 

 

Iv’e been saving up these images for some time. This, the first of a two-part posting, features many images that are rare online, especially in a large size.

Dupain was a master of the use of light and form (Tea Towel Trio, 1934), an early proponent of Modernist photography in Australia (Silos at Pyrmont; Silos through windscreen, both 1935), an expert in night photography (Mosman Bay at dusk, 1937) and the use of chiaroscuro (Passengers Disembarking from Ferry, 1950s; Newsstand, Nd). He was an innovator in surrealist photography (Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep, 1936-37), photomontage (Nude Figure with Shell Transposed, 1936), and advertising photography. His nude studies evidence an experimentation towards the representation of the human body (Jean with Wire Mesh, 1938; Nude Figure behind Wire Mesh, 1930s), his portraits possess a sensitivity and feeling towards subject matter (Portrait of Boy in Sunlight, 1936), while his portrayal of Australian culture –  the body as architecture (Bondi, 1939); the myth of the surf lifesaver (Life Guards with Flag and Reel March, Nd); and the bustling metropolis (Rush Hour, Kings Cross, 1938) address the burgeoning self confidence of the Australian nation in the 1930s.

Seemingly, there was nothing that Dupain could not turn his hand too, that he could not photograph.

What strikes me most when looking at his photographs is the precision of his visual inquiry. His focus, his previsualisation, in knowing exactly what he wanted to say in that image – even while shifting genres and points of view. Like the subtle camera positioning of Atget where the angles are not what you would expect, Dupain rarely puts his camera where a mere mortal would stand to take a photograph. He looks, down (Manly, 1940s), up (crouching on his haunches to make the Life Guards and the Bondi couple seem monumental) and across – framing his compositions with diagonals, arches, and waves of people, almost like musical annotation. Everything looks simple and eloquent, elegant, but beneath the surface these are sophisticated images.

Far from being nostalgic, I look at Dupain’s body of work, and then at an individual photograph like Buses, Eddy Avenue (Nd) – and marvel at Dupain’s contemporary rendition (rending?) of time and space. Placing his camera as far to the right as he dared, Dupain captures the diagonal line of the parked buses in sunlight framed by the dark arch of the tunnel, the tram passing from left to right, the perfectly positioned clocktower and willowy flag giving a sense of movement… and then that man, that man, standing stock still at right with his shadow falling in front of him. IF he was not there, the whole focus of the image, the punctum, would be gone. It would just be a serviceable image. But he IS there and Dupain recognised that!

Similarly, in one of my favourite photographs by Dupain, At Newport (1952) “Dupain’s viewpoint turns the top of the wall into a taught line across the picture and his five bathers are strung out along it and held in tension like forms on a wire. As one prepares to dive, his counterweight, the sinewy young man, descends on the dry side. At the picture’s edges, the girls in bathing caps counterbalance the boy with hunched shoulders.” Birds on a wire, notes on a musical stave. Can you imagine being Dupain standing there and recognising that composition and the distorted shadow, in that very instance of its emergence, its flowering, for that ever so brief second in the existence of the cosmos….

Simply put, Max Dupain is the greatest Australian male photographer that has ever lived.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All images are used under fair use conditions for the purpose of educational research. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Max Dupain. 'Mosman Bay at dusk' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Mosman Bay at dusk
1937
Gelatin silver print
28 x 37.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep' 1936-37

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep
1936-37
Gelatin silver print
30 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Rhythmic Form)' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Rhythmic Form)
1935
Gelatin silver print
22.5 x 30.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Nude Figure with Trombone Shadow)' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure with Trombone Shadow)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
25 x 17.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Nude Figure with Shell Transposed)' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure with Shell Transposed)
1936
Gelatin silver print
50 x 35.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Two forms' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Two forms
1939
Gelatin silver print
50.5 x 38.5cm

 

 

This photograph relates conceptually to Dupain’s experiments with photographs of nudes. According to the vitalist philosophies of the time, the spiralling rounded shell being shaped by nature is feminine, while the hard metallic tool is man-made and represents the masculine principle. Photographed on a plain surface and lit with raking light, the sense of space is ambiguous. Dupain retained an interest in still-lifes throughout his career, returning to them particularly towards the end of his life. In the 1930s his most well-known still-life was Shattered intimacy 1936 (AGNSW collection) where an image of broken glass and a broken classical statue has been solarised, producing a powerful narrative. Two forms is a more contemplative image as the shell and the head of a hammer lie side by side and are of similar scale. Interestingly, the two forms are distant from each other, rather than close together, and their scale gives them equality. It is not known whether Dupain necessarily subscribed to the contemporaneous anxiety about the ‘new woman’, but certainly one can read this image as an examination of difference.

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

 

Max Dupain. 'Tea Towel Trio' 1934

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Tea Towel Trio
1934
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 22cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Still Life' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Still Life
1935
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 21.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Blankets' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Blankets
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Male Nude with Discus)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Male Nude with Discus)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
39 x 32cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Dart' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Dart
1935
Gelatin silver print
50 x 37.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Dart' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Dart
1935
Gelatin silver print

 

Max Dupain. 'Sleeping Boy' 1941

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sleeping Boy
1941
Gelatin silver print

 

Max Dupain. 'Portrait of Boy in Sunlight' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Portrait of Boy in Sunlight
1936
Gelatin silver print
29 x 26cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Jean with Wire Mesh' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Jean with Wire Mesh
1938
Gelatin silver print
49.5 x 39.5cm

 

 

In 1937, [Jean] Bailey posed for Jean with wire mesh, which some experts hail as the single most powerful image ever taken by Max Dupain, generally regarded as Australia’s greatest lensman.

It’s more subtle than his most famous image, Sunbaker, also shot in 1937. It’s less frozen in time than his striking scenes of wartime Australians serving in New Guinea. It’s more universal than his evocative tableaux of shearers, cattle drovers, miners and “six o’clock swillers”. And it’s less contrived than the commissioned portraits he took of wealthier women for the equivalent of today’s social pages.

Of all the many women who posed for his camera, Bailey was regarded as Dupain’s muse. Even by her own admission, she was not the most beautiful woman in 1930s Sydney.

In some pictures, by other photographers, she looks quite plain. …

But Dupain saw something special in her, though even Bailey does not know what it was.

“It’s not enormously erotic,” says [Alan] Davies. “But it is incredibly sensual, masterful in its use of light and shade. To photograph someone with her forehead in full sunlight and the rest of her figure cloaked in shadow is an extraordinary technical achievement. Most photographers would regard it as professional suicide. They wouldn’t attempt it.”

The image, he says, “is an astonishing masterpiece of chiaroscuro”. Unlike so many of Dupain’s images, this – and another outstanding work in the exhibition of an unknown model called Nude with pole – are timeless, betraying none of the nostalgia for which Dupain is so often noted.

White, who under Dupain’s tutelage became an accomplished photographer herself, says simply, “I think Jean with wire mesh is his most beautiful image. It leaves Sunbaker for dead.”

Anonymous. “Portrait of a lady,” on The Sydney Morning Herald website, July 12, 2003 [Online] Cited 24/10/2020

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) '(Nude Figure behind Wire Mesh)' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure behind Wire Mesh)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
50.5 x 40 cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Hands of a Dancer' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hands of a Dancer
1935
Gelatin silver print
29 x 27.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Artist and Model' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Artist and Model
1938
Gelatin silver print
35.5 x 30.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Super-Imposed Woman and Night Cityscape)' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Super-Imposed Woman and Night Cityscape)
1937
Gelatin silver print
46 x 35cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio (Solarised)' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio (Solarised)
1935
Gelatin silver print
30 x 21.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio
1930s
Gelatin silver print
24.5 x 9cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Olive Cotton in Wheat Fields)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Olive Cotton in Wheat Fields)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30 x 30cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Fire Stairs at Bond Street)' 1934

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Fire Stairs at Bond Street)
1934
Gelatin silver print
26 x 21cm

 

 

Max Dupain is Australia’s most celebrated modernist photographer. Born in the Sydney, Dupain practiced photography as a teenager, receiving his first camera in 1924. In 1929 he joined the New South Wales Photographic Society, and in 1930 was employed in the studio of prominent Pictorialist Cecil Bostock, where he received solid training in all aspects of photography. He established his own studio in Sydney in 1934, servicing commercial clients and producing still lifes, figure photography and portraits. In his personal work, he explored the surrealist aesthetic of Man Ray, experimenting with formal abstraction and montage. With the outbreak of World War II, Dupain worked with the Camouflage Unit in 1941, travelling to New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands. His photography of the 1960s and 70s was shaped by architectural interests and he fostered working relationships with several prominent architects, most notably Harry Seidler.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 24/10/2020

 

Max Dupain. 'Silos through windscreen' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Silos through windscreen
1935
Gelatin silver print
40 x 43cm

 

 

While cars and machinery were rarely Max Dupain’s personal choice of forms to photograph, his Silos through windscreen 1935 embraces the new age from a new perspective. It is an uncharacteristically complex composition. The view of the silos from the front seat shows off the car’s smart dashboard; at the same time his camera records a fragment of a brick factory reflected in the rear vision mirror.

 

Max Dupain. 'Silos at Pyrmont' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Silos at Pyrmont
1935
Gelatin silver print
49 x 37cm

 

 

Pyrmont silos is one of a number of photographs that Dupain took of these constructions in the 1930s. In all cases Dupain examined the silos from a modernist perspective, emphasising their monumentality from low viewpoints under a bright cloudless sky. Additionally, his use of strong shadows to emphasise the forms of the silos and the lack of human figures celebrates the built structure as well as providing no sense of scale. Another photograph by Dupain in the AGNSW collection was taken through a car windscreen so that the machinery of transport merges explicitly with industrialisation into a complex hard-edge image of views and mirror reflections. There were no skyscrapers in Sydney until the late 1930s so the silos, Walter Burley Griffin’s incinerators and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were the major points of reference for those interested in depicting modern expressions of engineering and industrial power.

Dupain was the first Australian photographer to embrace modernism. One of his photographs of the silos was roundly criticised when shown to the New South Wales Photographic Society but Dupain forged on regardless with his reading, thinking and experimentation. Some Australian painting and writing had embraced modernist principles in the 1920s, but as late as 1938 Dupain was writing to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Great art has always been contemporary in spirit. Today we feel the surge of aesthetic exploration along abstract lines, the social economic order impinging itself on art, the repudiation of the ‘truth to nature criterion’ … We sadly need the creative courage of Man Ray, the original thought of Moholy-Nagy, and the dynamic realism of Edouard [sic] Steichen.”1

1. Dupain, M. 1938, ‘Letter to the editor’, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March

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

 

Max Dupain. 'Bondi' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Bondi
1939
Gelatin silver print
37 x 37.5cm

 

 

Dupain was one of the first Australian photographers to embrace Modernism. The simplicity of form and unusually low vantage point of this picture reflect the influence of German photography that he saw in the journal Das Deutsche Lichtbild. At first Dupain preferred another version of the image; when it was published in 1948, the photograph shows the woman standing with her arms folded. Here, she leans toward the man, their bodies slightly overlapping. Standing parallel to the picture plane, their bodies and those of the young men at their sides form a pyramid – one of Dupain’s preferred forms at this time.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain. 'At Newport' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
At Newport
1952
Gelatin silver print
25 x 29cm

 

 

There is a strong sense of masculinity found in many of Dupain’s beach works. In At Newport this is emphasised by the strong, angular lines of the figures, an image that seems to capture the essence of male youth at the beach. In this image, three male swimmers are positioned in the foreground of a beachside pool setting. The long shadows of the late summer sun place further emphasis on the angularity and thus the masculinity that is a feature of this image.

Text from the Annette Larkin Fine Art website

 

Max Dupain. 'At Newport Baths' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
At Newport
1952
Gelatin silver print
45.0 x 40.0cm
National Gallery of Australia
Purchased 1976

 

 

Dupain took At Newport in 1952 at the Newport Baths, as it was then known, a sea-water pool next to the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles north of Sydney. It’s an ambiguous photograph in more ways than one because the angle of the shot makes it seem as if the tremendous weight of the sea is being held back by nothing stronger than a low wall, with the water rising almost to the brim. Dupain’s viewpoint turns the top of the wall into a taught line across the picture and his five bathers are strung out along it and held in tension like forms on a wire. As one prepares to dive, his counterweight, the sinewy young man, descends on the dry side. At the picture’s edges, the girls in bathing caps counterbalance the boy with hunched shoulders. The distant pillars along the side of the pool duplicate these intervals. There appears to be some indecision, though, about the crop Dupain intended on the right. A print in his archive shows space between the right-hand girl and the edge, which is better, while a print in a national collection omits her entirely. Losing her disembodied head and intense concentration on the diver weakens the photograph. (There is also a second picture of bathers from the same group (below))

At Newport can be straightforwardly construed as another celebration by Dupain the dedicated modernist of the vitalising power of sunlight and the exuberant Australianness of the beach, but there is an alternative way of reading it. An essay in Dupain’s Sydney (1999) notes that the photographer didn’t like people very much, valued solitude, and would rather be doing something than have to talk. (He was remarkably industrious, leaving an archive of more than a million pictures.) This group of bathers is together but disconnected. Two faces are hidden and unknowable, looking down at the water, and the others are half-concealed in shadow, lost in their own thoughts. Then there is the ungainly shape cast by the young man’s long legs, which serves as a foil to the dark tones of the rising land. The shadow introduces an element of discord and adds to the mood of subtle disquiet.

Rick Poynor. “Exposure: Newport Baths by Max Dupain,” on the Design Observer website 23/06/2015 [Online] Cited 24/10/2020

 

Max Dupain. 'Newport Baths I' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Newport Baths I
1952
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 25.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Bondi Couple' 1950s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Bondi Couple
1950s
Gelatin silver print
20.5 x 20.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Manly' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Manly
1940s
Gelatin silver print
47 x 37.5cm

 

 

From 1938, and throughout the late 1940s after his return from the war, Dupain took many photographs of Manly beach from the high vantage point offered by its iconic shark tower. These landscapes often found striking diagonal obliques in the convergence of incoming surf, the activities of lifesavers, the lines of beachgoers, and the surrounding modernist architecture, including promenades. These photographs tell us as much about Dupain’s leisure time as they do his artistic interests: the beach was ‘how I used to spend my weekends’, Dupain later wrote. More than its convenience, Manly offered a very local experience of modernity. Dupain strongly believed in and advocated for a contemporary photography, that it was important to consciously be part of the age into which one was born.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain. '(Life Guards with Flag and Reel March)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Life Guards with Flag and Reel March)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
26 x 26.5 cm

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) '(Life Savers at Attention in a Row)' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Life Savers at Attention in a Row)
1940s
Gelatin silver print
25.5 x 30 cm

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) 'Lifesavers' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Lifesavers
1940s
Gelatin silver print
36.5 x 47.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Passengers Disembarking from Ferry)' 1950s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Passengers Disembarking from Ferry)
1950s
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Male Commuters departing Ferry)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Male Commuters departing Ferry)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
27 x 26cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Newsstand)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Newsstand)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
36 x 30.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Meat Queue, Sydney' 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Meat Queue, Sydney
1946
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 50.5cm

 

 

Meat queue, Sydney was one in a series of pictures Sydney photographer Max Dupain undertook for the Department of Information. When interviewed by curator Helen Ennis in 1991 Dupain said:

“We were doing a story on queues after the war. They were all over the place – queues for buses, vegetables, fruit. I just happened to come across this butcher shop in Pitt Street, I think it was. Here they were all lined up, and I went around it, took a number of pictures, ultimately ending up with this sort of architectural approach with four of five females all dressed in black with black hats, not looking too happy about the world. Suddenly one of them breaks the queue when I’m focused up all ready to go, pure luck.”1

The solidity of the linear figures taken from mid distance beneath a meat coupon scale which will weigh a proportion of meat with the allowable coupons democratises the women. The picture is given a sudden focus as the central figure decides to move from the queue and unwanted contact is made with the woman ahead. Described as both a documentary photograph, but not necessarily a social comment, the economic food-rationing of postwar Australia is shown in this clear modernist image of black-and-white shapes in shallow space. Form rather than content defines this image. The central figure in a lighter coloured coat is balanced on either side by the darker coats as the black hats, which make a wave along the horizontal, parallel the line of meat hooks.

1. Ennis, H. 1991, Max Dupain: photographs, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p. 18.

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

 

Max Dupain. 'Morning Commuters, The Kabu, Circular Quay' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Morning Commuters, The Kabu, Circular Quay
1938
Gelatin silver print
32.5 x 30cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Tram Abstraction' 1930

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Tram Abstraction
1930
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 20cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Buses, Eddy Avenue)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Buses, Eddy Avenue)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 17cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Rush Hour, Kings Cross' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Rush Hour, Kings Cross
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

Max Dupain. 'Rush Hour, Kings Cross' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Rush Hour, Kings Cross
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

Max Dupain. 'Rush Hour, Kings Cross' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Rush Hour, Kings Cross
1938
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 42cm

 

 

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12
Jul
16

Review: ‘Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 31st May – 24th July 2016

National Gallery of Australia touring exhibition

Curator: Shaune Lakin

 

 

An independent vision

 

Pictorialism, Surrealism and Modernism: Light, geometry and atmosphere

This is the quintessential hung “on the line” exhibition from the National Gallery of Australia which features the work of two well respected Australian photographers, Max Dupain and Olive Cotton, showing over three gallery spaces at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne. Of its type, it is a superb exhibition which rewards repeated viewing and contemplation of the many superb photographs it contains.

While Dupain may be the more illustrious of the two featured artists – notable for taking the most famous photograph in Australian photographic history (Sunbaker, 1937, below); for being the first Australian photographer to embrace Modernism; and for bringing a distinctly Australian style to photography (sun, sea, sand) – it is the artist Olive Cotton’s work that steals almost every facet of this exhibition through her atmospheric images.

Dupain’s importance in the history of Australian photography cannot be underestimated. He dragged Australian photography from Pictorialism to Modernism in a few short years and met fierce resistance from the conservative camera clubs, stuck in the age of Pictorialism, because of it. He was the first to understand what Modernism meant for the medium in Australia, and how photographers would in future picture the country. He wanted to see the world through ‘modern’ eyes. As he observed, ‘(photography) belongs to the new age … it is part and parcel of the terrific and thrilling panorama opening out before us today – of clean concrete buildings, steel radio masts, and the wings of the air line. But its beauty is only for those who themselves are aware of the ‘zeitgeist’ – who belong consciously and proudly to this age, and have not their eyes forever wistfully fixed on the past.’ Dupain’s awareness of the ‘zeitgeist’ of modernity was coupled with a keen eye for composition, light and form (what Dupain later termed ‘passing movement and changing form’), and an understanding of photography’s expressive potential. Over the next 50 years he captured many memorable images, some of the most famous images ever taken of this sun burnt country.

Dupain started to hit his straps with his early cross-over images which contained elements of both Pictorialism and Modernism. His 1930s series of three photographs of Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio (one of which is feature in the exhibition), and images such as Design – suburbia (1933, below) and Still life (1935, below) still possess that soft, raking light that was so beloved by Pictorialists, coupled with an implicit understanding of form, geometry and light. As fellow photographer David Moore observes, by the time of photographs such as Pyrmont silos (1935, below) and Through the Windscreen (1935), ‘any return to sentimental Pictorialism was precluded’. That sense of the European avant-garde, the aesthetics of contemporary European photography, the strength of industrial forms, imbues Dupain’s photographs with a crisp, clean decisiveness, that ‘symphony of forms and textures’. Whether it be the monumentalism of silos, or the monumentalism of bodies (such as in the classic Bondi, 1939), Dupain relished the opportunity to merge aesthetics with representation, pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible within the medium, believing that both representation and aesthetics could exist within the same frame. Evidence of this merging of can be seen in photographs such as Untitled [Factory chimney stacks] (1940, below) and Backyard, Forster, New South Wales (1940, below). These images are silent in their formalism… they are very quiet, and still, and rather haunting, beautiful in their tonality (with lots of yellow in the 8 x 10 and perhaps even small prints).

Dupain and Cotton both revel “in photography’s great capacity to make sense of the relations of light, texture and form as they exist in the present,” and evidence “a modernist concern with line, form and space; documentary photography’s interest in realism and ‘the living moment’; and the pictorial and formal attributes of commercial photography.” But as the press release insightfully observes, “Comparisons articulate and make apparent Dupain’s more structured – even abstracted – approach to art and to the world; similarly, comparisons highlight Cotton’s more immersive relationship to place, with a particularly deep and instinctual love of light and its ephemeral effects.” And this is where the photographs of Olive Cotton are so much more engaging, and alive, than those of Max Dupain.

While Dupain was busy running a commercial studio (with Cotton his assistant and for a couple of years his wife), Olive seems to have had more freedom to experiment, to express herself in a less structured way than her erstwhile husband. Walking around this exhibition my initial thoughts were wow, Olive Cotton, you are an absolute star. Photographs such as The way through the trees (1938, below), while not possessing the technical brilliance of a Dupain, possess something inherently more appealing – a sensitivity and feeling for subject that nearly overwhelms the senses. Truly here is a symphony of texture, light and form. The composition is a subtle paean, a song of praise to the natural and modern world – a world of geometry, textures, light and form. The rendition of this image, a performance of interpretation, is simply magnificent in its sensitivity to subject matter. The print is also glorious in its delicacy and colour. For me, this is what is so appealing about the work of Olive Cotton, an innate sensitivity that all of her photographs seem to possess – in composition, in proportion, in printing and in colour. Cotton maintained an independent vision forged out of experimentation, creating spaces for erotic imaginings, spaces for action and spaces for quiet contemplation. Her use of light and shade, of body and shadow, of classical and modernist motifs …. is superlative. While Dupain’s photographs are more structured and more dazzling in a technical sense, Cotton’s photographs possess more “atmosphere”, a complex and insightful way of seeing and imaging the world which has few equals in the annals of Australian photography.

Below is a short transcription of a voice memo I made on my phone as I toured around the exhibition for the third time:

“What a great show this is, the photographs of Max Dupain and Olive Cotton. But it is the photographs of Olive Cotton that are the wonder of this exhibition. Photographs such as Orchestration in light (1937, below), Sky submerged (c. 1937) and especially The way through the trees (1938, below) are just masterpieces of complex seeing. A sort of… mmmm … an intimate previsualisation where there are hints of Pictorialism – dappled light, moss on the trees – and yet there is a geometric form to the composition that marks it as definitively Modernist. As the wall text states, “this exceptional landscape appears at first glance like a classic Pictorialist view of the Australian bush but typical of Cotton’s best pictures, this landscape merges Pictorialism’s stylistic and formal codes  with those of a cosmopolitan modernist sensibility. Cotton pays particular attention to the similarly angled tree trunks, as well as the all over pattern of the spotted gums and the dapples of light, not bound or hemmed in dogma, Cotton created a view of being completely immersed in the landscape.” The colour of the print, there are hints of pinks and greens and beiges. When was it taken and printed, it must have been an early one, 1938 … and then again the beautiful tonality of it. Wow!

As with all of her best work Cotton is constructing her environment – through music, through geometry, through light. Over the city (1940, below), the light over the city, the shadow of the city, the silhouette of the city in outline, followed by Grass at sundown (1939, below) shooting contre jour, into the light. In Max after surfing (1937, below) there is evidence of Cotton’s understanding of the play of form, of light, of shadow and the composition of the pictorial plane into triangles, horizontals and verticals. This creates a sense of mystery within the four walls of the photograph. As art historian Tim Bonyhady observes, it ‘is not just one of the most erotic Australian photographs, but possibly the first sexually charged Australian photograph by a woman of a man’. The sensuality and atmosphere of the Cotton’s are just gorgeous. Olive Cotton just has such a marvellous grasp of the construction of the picture plane using form, texture and shadow… and feeling. If had a choice I would take away most of the Cotton’s (laughs), because I think they are just amazing…”

There are so many great images in this exhibition, from both Cotton and Dupain, that is hard to know where to start. I haven’t even mentioned images such as Dupain’s sensual but commercial Jean with wire mesh (c. 1935, below), his seminal Street at Central (1939, below) with its raking light and abstraction, or Cotton’s most famous image Teacup ballet (1935, below). I could go on and on. The only disappointment with the exhibition is that, for the uninitiated, there is little to place both photographers works in the context of their time and place, other than a few The Home magazines in a couple of display cases and the wall text. There is little sense of what a tumultuous period this was in Australian history – between two world wars, during a depression, with the advent of modernity, freedom of movement through cars, White Australia policy in full swing, meat and four veg on the table, women’s place in the home, the rise of vitalism and the cult of the bronzed Aussie body and the worship of nature and the outdoors, mateship and the beach as a place of socialisation. But that is the nature of such a classic, hung “on the line” exhibition. It would have been great to see some large photographs, floor to ceiling, of the environment from which all these nearly contextless (as in a particular time and place) images emerged but this is a minor quibble. In the end, I restate that this is a stunning exhibition that is a must see for any aficionado of great Australian photography. Go see it before it closes.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,685

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Many thankx to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I like few people … to go into a room of strangers is a chore for me … I can effect a relationship, but afterwards, I think: was it worth it?”

.
Max Dupain

 

“Looking at the work of these two great Australian photographers together is enlightening; they were often shooting the same subjects, or pursuing subjects and pictorial effects in similar ways. Rarely do we get to see two great Australian artists working side-by-side in this way. And while Max Dupain’s reputation might now stand well above most other Australian photographers, this exhibition shows that Olive Cotton had a significant role to play in his development as a photographer, and was in many ways his equal.”

.
Shaune Lakin

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Gallery one

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

installation-g

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

At left, Max Dupain’s Bawley Point landscape (1938) and middle, Dupain’s Untitled [Factory chimney stacks], 1940

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Max Dupain’s famous Sunbaker (1937) is second from the right

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Olive Cotton’s most famous image, Teacup ballet (1935) at left

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Max Dupain’s Jean with wire mesh (c. 1935) at right

Gallery two

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Cabinet with view of The Home magazine (April 1st 1933 right) which feature the photographs of Max Dupain

Gallery three

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Max Dupain’s Street at Central (1939) left, followed by his Thin man (1936) and Olive Cotton’s Fashion shot, Cronulla sandhills (Max Dupain photographing model) (1937) at right

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Max and Olive: The photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne
All images © Marcus Bunyan, The National Gallery of Australia and The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

 

Olive Cotton (1911-2003) and Max Dupain OBE (1911-1992) were pioneering modernist photographers. Cotton’s lifelong obsession with photography began at age eleven with the gift of a Kodak Box Brownie. She was a childhood friend of Dupain’s and in 1934 she joined his fledgling photographic studio, where she made her best-known work, Teacup Ballet, in about 1935. Throughout the 1930s, Dupain established his reputation with portraiture and advertising work and gained exposure in the lifestyle magazine The Home. Between 1939 and 1941, Dupain and Cotton were married and she photographed him often; her Max After Surfing is frequently cited as one of the most sensuous Australian portrait photographs. While Dupain was on service during World War II Cotton ran his studio, one of very few professional women photographers in Australia. Cotton remarried in 1944 and moved to her husband’s property near Cowra, New South Wales. Although busy with a farm, a family, and a teaching position at the local high school, Cotton continued to take photographs and opened a studio in Cowra in 1964. In the 1950s, Dupain turned increasingly to architectural photography, collaborating with architects and recording projects such as the construction of the Sydney Opera House. Dupain continued to operate his studio on Sydney’s Lower North Shore until he died at the age of 81. Cotton was in her seventies when her work again became the subject of attention. In 1983, she was awarded a Visual Arts Board grant to reprint negatives that she had taken over a period of forty years or more. The resulting retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 drew critical acclaim and has since assured her reputation.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind' c. 1939

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind
c. 1939
Gelatin silver photograph

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION

 

 

Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind appears to have been the only print Cotton made of this image. It was found in the late 1990s and has been shown only once, in an exhibition at the AGNSW in 2000 where it was also used on the catalogue cover. It was unusual for Cotton to print so large, yet it is entirely fitting that this monumental head and shoulder shot of a beautiful young woman should be presented in this way. The subject was a model on a fashion shoot at which Cotton was probably assisting. Cotton often took her own photographs while on such shoots and used them for her private portfolio. The photograph transcends portraiture, fashion and time to become a remarkable image of harmony with the elements.

Cotton took the title for this photograph from an 1895 poem by English poet Laurence Binyon, ‘O summer sun’:

O summer sun, O moving trees!
O cheerful human noise, O busy glittering street!
What hour shall Fate in all the future find,
Or what delights, ever to equal these:
Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind,
Only to be alive, and feel that life is sweet?1

A photographer whose work straddles pictorialism, modernism and documentary, Cotton maintained an independent vision throughout her working life, based on the close observation of nature. Her understanding of the medium of photography was not to do with capture, but rather ‘drawing with light’.

1. 1915, ‘Poems of today’, English Association, London p 96

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website © Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Max' c. 1935

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Max
c. 1935
gelatin silver photograph
14.8 x 14.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1998

 

 

In this highly abstracted portrait, Cotton seems to present Dupain as an athlete – perhaps, with his strangely extended arms, a hammer thrower, in an image that predates by at least two years Dupain’s own photographs of athletes outdoors. It is likely that Cotton photographed her friend in this way because of the graphic pictorial effect she wished to achieve. Cotton exploits the shape of the Rolleiflex camera’s square-format film: Dupain’s body cuts across the right-hand corner of the picture, from which his overstretched forearms (the shape and tone of which were the result of much dodging and burning in the darkroom) create a diagonal oblique angle that is classically modernist. A similar conflation of diagonal lines, which was common to the ways that modern life in Australia at the time was represented in advertising and architectural photography, can also be seen in pictures such as Surf’s edge and Teacup ballet.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

“Max Dupain put his lack of clannishness down to a temperament which inclined to the stoic and an early life as an only child. He relished the solitude of his darkroom, familiar places and routines and the early morning calm of Sydney Harbour, where he rowed his scull until prevented by ill health in the early 1990s. He was not a joiner or follower of teams; he was republican in politics and agnostic. Philosophically, Dupain mixed rationalism and a less defined alliance with the passionate exhortation to live directly in one’s environment, body and heart. This philosophy was espoused by poets and writers such as D.H Lawrence, from the movement known in the 1920s and 1930s as Vitalism.

Although he acknowledged that he was a bit of a loner by temperament, portraiture was a significant part of Max Dupain’s personal and professional work. He included some dozen or so portraits in his selection for his 1948 monograph, fifty plates showing ‘my best work since 1935’. Dupain’s images, including many portraits especially of the 1930s to 1960s, have stamped the public image of this era of rapid progress and increasing cultural sophistication in Australia. Portraiture was at the top stratum of Dupain’s first three decades of work but volume decreased markedly from the 1960s, when Max Dupain and Associates, his business, began to specialise in architectural and industrial commissions.”

‘Vintage Max’ by Gael Newton, 1 June 2003

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Sunbaker
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
37.7 x 43.2 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'The photographer's shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain)' c. 1935

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
The photographer’s shadow (Olive Cotton and Max Dupain)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver photograph
16.6 x 15.2 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'The sleeper' 1939

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
The sleeper
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
29.2 h x 25.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1987

 

The sleeper 1939, Olive Cotton’s graceful study of her friend Olga Sharp resting while on a bush picnic, made around the same time as Max Dupain’s Sunbaker, presents a different take upon the enjoyment of life in Australia. The woman is relaxed, nestled within the environment. The mood is one of secluded reverie.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Untitled [Olive Cotton in Wheat Fields]' Nd (probably late 1930s)

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Untitled [Olive Cotton in Wheat Fields]
Nd (probably late 1930s)
Gelatin silver photograph

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Max' 1939

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Max
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Cotton shot this portrait of fellow Australian photographer, Max Dupain during their brief marriage at their home in Longueville on Sydney’s lower north shore. Dupain is captured affectionately in the portrait, represented as at once casual through pose and, as industrious on account of his rolled up sleeves and the Rolleiflex TLR camera which hangs from his neck. It is indicative of the combination of a working and personal relationship Cotton and Dupain shared during the late 1930s when they operated a commercial studio together. The couple separated in 1941 but Cotton went on to manage the Dupain Studio while Max was away serving as a camouflage officer during the Second World War 1.

1. Ennis H 2005, ‘Olive Cotton: photographer’, National Library of Australia, p. 6

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website © Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Max after surfing' 1937

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Max after surfing
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2006

 

 

This intimate study of Dupain, who Cotton was romantically involved with at the time, first appeared in the mid-1990s; Cotton did not include it in her reassessment of her oeuvre in the mid-1980s that involved making prints of her best images. For many commentators, this remains a radical image in the history of Australian photography. For the art historian Tim Bonyhady, it ‘is not just one of the most erotic Australian photographs, but possibly the first sexually charged Australian photograph by a woman of a man’. This is the only known vintage print of the image, which inexplicably carries the signature and a message from the fashion photographer George Hoyningen‑Huene, who visited Sydney in December 1937 and spent time with Dupain. It suggests perhaps that Hoyningen-Huene was present when Cotton made the print.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max after surfing is a portrait of Dupain taken in 1939, around the time of their brief marriage. While the photograph was taken indoors, the sharply delineated contrast and the dramatic interplay between light and shade evoke harsh sunlight. The work is loaded with suggestion and emotional intimacy. As art historian and curator Helen Ennis noted in 2000, the close vantage point and the tension between visible form and dense shadow ‘creates a space for erotic imaginings’.

A photographer whose work straddles pictorialism, modernism and documentary, Cotton maintained an independent vision throughout her working life, based on the close observation of nature. Her understanding of the medium of photography was not to do with capture, but rather ‘drawing with light’.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website © Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Jean with wire mesh' c. 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Jean with wire mesh
c. 1935
Gelatin silver photograph
46.0 h x 34.5 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 2006

 

 

This portrait of Jean Lorraine, a close friend of Cotton, was one of many taken of her by Cotton and Dupain. This photograph is notable for its technical virtuosity – Dupain’s control of the variegated light across Jean’s body, beautifully lyrical and sensuous, is masterful. It also reflects Dupain’s active interest in the work of Man Ray, whose earlier Shadow patterns on Lee Miller’s torso (1930) was no doubt an influence. Like Man Ray’s image of his lover, Dupain’s portrait of Jean is also notable for its eroticism. While Dupain might have argued that this photograph was a study of light falling on surfaces, the light and shade take particular pleasure in the form of Jean’s naked torso. This eroticism has been underplayed throughout the history of the picture, not surprising given the nature of the relationships involved: when it was published in The Home in February 1936, Jean with wire mesh was known simply as a Photographic study. Dupain printed at least two versions of this shot, another with Jean’s eyes open.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Girl with mirror' 1938

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Girl with mirror
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 31.7 h x 29.9 w cm sheet 32.6 h x 30.6 w cm
Purchased 1987

 

 

The photographs Cotton took while attending Dupain’s fashion shoots often focussed on the graphic effects created by light rather than fashion or the dynamics of the shoot itself. Cotton’s role as assistant left her free to explore personal interests, without the imperative of getting a shot for the assignment. This image of a model attending to her make-up, seemingly absorbed in her own image, is primarily concerned with the patterns created by light falling on sand dunes and the way they contrast with the decorative print of her clothing. It is notable that the image we see in the mirror is not the model’s face, but the patterns created by light hitting the sand. As Cotton later remembered, ‘I took it mostly because I really liked the pattern in the sand and the contrasting pattern in the left-hand corner’, which includes a series of diagonal shadows cast by Dupain’s tripod.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'The floater' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
The floater
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia
Purchased 1976

 

 

Two versions of this image of a woman floating in water were printed by Dupain, so like Sunbaker it held particular interest for him. It acknowledges one of the great moments in avant-garde photography, André Kertész’s iconic study of underwater distortion Underwater swimmer (1917). As with Kertész, Dupain’s interest was with the visual effects created by light hitting the water and the impact of this on the contours of the swimmer. In his personal copy of the anthology Modern Photography (1931), Dupain highlighted the writer G.H. Saxon Mills’ claim that photography’s value existed in both its capacity to record the world and the optical effects it found or created – ‘its … symphony of forms and textures.’ (Wall text)

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Fashion shot, Cronulla sandhills (Max Dupain photographing model)' 1937

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Fashion shot, Cronulla sandhills (Max Dupain photographing model)
1937
Cronulla, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 30.4 h x 38.5 w cm sheet 40.2 h x 48.7 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1988

 

As the studio assistant, Cotton accompanied Dupain on fashion shoots to attend to models, doing their make-up and helping with costume changes. She often used these opportunities to take her own photographs, including this wonderful image of Dupain photographing the model Noreen Hallard for David Jones. As well as producing a striking image of Dupain and Hallard at work, Cotton was interested in the landscape in which they operated, paying particular attention to the pattern created by their footsteps in the sand.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

“Olive Cotton and Max Dupain are key figures in Australian visual culture. They shared a long and close personal and professional relationship. This exhibition looks at their work made between 1934 and 1945, the period of their professional association; this was an exciting period of experimentation and growth in Australian photography, and Cotton and Dupain were at the centre of these developments.

This is the first exhibition to look at the work of these two photographers as they shared their lives, studio and professional practice. Looking at their work together is instructive; they were often shooting the same subjects, or pursuing subjects and pictorial effects in similar ways. Comparisons articulate and make apparent Dupain’s more structured – even abstracted – approach to art and to the world; similarly, comparisons highlight Cotton’s more immersive relationship to place, with a particularly deep and instinctual love of light and its ephemeral effects.

This exhibition focuses on the key period in each of their careers, when they made many of their most memorable images. Keenly aware of international developments in photography, Cotton and Dupain experimented with the forms and strategies of modernist photography, especially Surrealism and the Bauhaus, and drew upon the sophisticated lighting and compositions of contemporary advertising and Hollywood glamour photography.

They brought to these influences their own, close association with the rich context of Australian life and culture during the 1930s and ’40s. Their achievement can be characterised, borrowing terms they used in discussions of their work, as the development of a ‘contemporary Australian photography’: a modern photographic practice that reflected their own, very particular relationships to the world and to each other.

Lives

Cotton and Dupain’s friendship stretched back to childhood summers spent at Newport Beach, NSW, where their families spent summer holidays. They were both given their first cameras – Kodak Box Brownies – by relatives as young teenagers, and spent days together wandering around taking photographs. They shared a similar commitment to photography as teenagers and young adults: both made and published or exhibited photographs while at school, and in 1929 they became members of the Photographic Society of New South Wales. But their approach to achieving the ‘professional life’ of a photographer took different paths: Dupain undertook a formal apprenticeship with the pictorialist master Cecil Bostock between 1930-33, while Cotton studied arts at Sydney University with the idea of becoming a teacher and photographed after hours.

Cotton and Dupain became romantically involved in 1928 and married in 1939; they separated in 1941 and eventually divorced in 1944. In spite of these personal vicissitudes, Cotton and Dupain remained professionally connected. Cotton managed the Dupain studio from late 1941-45, while he worked with the Department of Home Security’s Camouflage Unit during the Second World War. On his return, Cotton left Sydney and spent the rest of her life in relative isolation near Cowra, NSW, where she raised her family of two with husband Ross McInerney and, between 1964 and 1983, operated a small studio. And while Dupain returned from the war to develop his reputation and significance as Australia’s most recognised twentieth-century photographer, his work was deeply affected by his experience of the war and took on a completely different complexion to his work from the previous decade.

Studio

In 1934, Dupain opened a studio in a rented room at 24 Bond Street, Sydney; Cotton joined him as his assistant soon after. By 1936, the Dupain studio’s business had expanded to the extent that it moved into larger premises in the same building, before relocating in early 1941 to a whole floor of a building at 49 Clarence Street.

Their positions at the Dupain studio were clearly defined – he was the photographer, she the studio assistant. Even so, Cotton and Dupain each maintained distinct but in some ways closely aligned practices, both in and out of the studio. Cotton did not tend to take photographs commercially until after she took over the management of the Dupain studio in late 1941, when photographs were circulated in her name. Before then, she made use of the studio’s equipment afterhours, including Dupain’s large Thornton Pickard camera; her work was exhibited and published on occasion, both locally and internationally.

At the same time, Dupain’s photographs became increasingly widely-seen and influential. Sydney Ure Smith’s iconic monthly magazine The Home regularly published Dupain’s portraits, documentary work, social photographs (often actually taken by Cotton), and fashion and product photographs made for clients such as David Jones. When Dupain went to war, the studio continued to operate successfully under Cotton’s management. While some long-standing clients such as David Jones took their business elsewhere, Cotton took some of her most important pictures in the early 1940s, and her increasing confidence at this time can be identified across images of the city, industry and labour.

Dialogue

Cotton and Dupain were active members of Sydney’s network of young artists and photographers, of which the Dupain studio was a centre. Along with their contemporaries, including figures like Geoffrey Powell, Damien Parer and Lawrence Le Guay, they staked a claim for photography as a vital part of contemporary culture, exhibiting photographs alongside other artworks at venues like Sydney’s David Jones Gallery.

Their networks included members of Sydney’s progressive architectural, design, publishing and advertising communities, with whom they often collaborated. The threads of influence within this complex network of making, exhibiting, publishing and commissions were intricate. It is possible, for example, to see Dupain’s strong visual style affect those around him. His interest in surrealist style, which really took hold in 1935, can be identified in work by other, often lesser photographers working at the time, and indeed in the design of The Home, which published his work in editorial and advertisements. There were also times when Cotton indicated certain directions for Dupain. For example, her images of bodies outdoors, which cleverly pulled together classical and modernist motifs, predate similar images by Dupain.

It is clear also that Cotton and Dupain were engaging in dialogue within their own work. Their shared interest in photographing form, texture and shadow is seen across many pictures throughout the mid- to late 1930s. Their pictures also engage critically with photography as a medium, in images that draw attention to the photograph as a double of its subject, and in pictures that seem to play with photograph’s stillness. As Dupain later remembered, together they ‘shared the problems of photography’.

Contemporary Australian Photography

What were ‘the problems of photography’ that Dupain and Cotton sought to settle? In the most straightforward sense, they involved the assumption that Australian photographers were yet to completely embrace or realise the medium’s potential, which rested in careful attention to its aesthetic possibilities, recognition of its mechanical origins, and negotiation of the particular way the medium engaged notions of objectivity and subjectivity. Their solution to these problems involved a progressive photographic practice that intended to release photography from the shackles of history and orthodoxy, and to revel in photography’s great capacity to make sense of the relations of light, texture and form as they exist in the present.

Cotton’s and Dupain’s solution to ‘the problems of photography’ was to make work that made a feature of the medium’s modernity, and the strange way that mechanics, physics and aesthetics come together in modern photography to look at the world and to find beauty in it. They did this in a way that remained firmly footed in their own, very particular place in the world and history. In terms of style, their solution integrated legacies of Pictorialism – especially its interest in the atmospheric effects found in landscape – with a range of other, often competing modes and styles: a modernist concern with line, form and space; documentary photography’s interest in realism and ‘the living moment’; and the pictorial and formal attributes of commercial photography.

It is possible that, for the first time, Australian photography found in the work of Cotton and Dupain a contemporary expression: a photographic practice that emerged from, responded to and expressed the mood, ambitions and sensibility of its time.”

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Street at Central' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Street at Central
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
45.6 x 37.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Street at Central' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Street at Central
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
45.6 x 37.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

Two different versions of this photograph. Notice the different cropping and colour of each image, and how it adds emphasis to the light and to the shadows of the people.

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Teacup ballet' 1935

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Teacup ballet
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
37.5 x 29.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1983

 

‘This picture evolved after I had bought some inexpensive cups and saucers from Woolworths for our studio coffee breaks to replace our rather worn old mugs. The angular handles reminded me of arms akimbo, and that led to the idea of making a photograph to express a dance theme.

When the day’s work was over I tried several arrangements of the cups and saucers to convey this idea, without success, until I used a spotlight and realised how important the shadows were. Using the studio camera, which had a 6 ½ x 4 ½ inch ground glass focusing screen, I moved the cups about until they and their shadows made a ballet-like composition and then photographed them on a cut film negative. The title of the photograph suggested itself.

This was my first photograph to be shown overseas, being exhibited, to my delight, in the London Salon of Photography in 1935.’ Olive Cotton 1995 1

Olive Cotton and Max Dupain were childhood friends and, although she graduated in English and mathematics from the University of Sydney in 1934, her interest in photography led her to work in Dupain’s studio from this year. Cotton was employed as a photographer’s assistant in the studio, however she worked assiduously on her own work and continued to exhibit in photography salon exhibitions. Tea cup ballet is one of Cotton’s most well-known photographs and yet it is somewhat eccentric to her main practice, being at first glance typically modernist with its dramatic lighting and angular shapes. Her longstanding interest in organic forms provides a deeper reading. The abstraction of form by the lighting and the placement of the cups and saucers enables the relationship to dancers on a stage to become clear.

1. Ennis H 1995, ‘Olive Cotton: photographer’, National Library of Australia, Canberra p. 25

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website © Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Among Cotton’s most famous photographs, Teacup ballet has very humble origins. It was taken after hours in the Dupain studio and used a set of cheap cups and saucers Cotton had earlier bought from a Woolworths store for use around the studio. As she later recounted: ‘Their angular handles suggested to me the position of “arms akimbo” and that led to the idea of a dance pattern’. The picture uses a range of formal devices that became common to Cotton’s work, especially the strong backlighting used to create dramatic tonal contrasts and shadows. The picture achieved instant success, and was selected for exhibition in the London Salon of Photography for 1935.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Shasta daisies' 1937

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Shasta daisies
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1987

 

 

Celebrated Australian photographer Olive Cotton was given her first Box Brownie by her family for her eleventh birthday (1922) and continued to experiment with taking and developing pictures throughout the 1920s. By the early 1930s Cotton had mastered the Pictorialist style so popular at the time and was on her way to establishing her own approach which also incorporated Modernist principles. The recurrent themes of landscape and plant-life are important to the photographer’s approach, which photography scholar Helen Ennis describes as Cotton’s concern for the ‘potential for pattern-making’.

Shasta daisies is an interesting and rare combination of natural form and a highly-constructed scenario, the flowers having been photographed in Cotton’s studio and carefully arranged for the camera. Cotton, in the 1995 book, wrote of the photograph: “I chose to photograph these in the studio because out of doors I would have had less control of the lighting and background. I examined the composition very carefully through the studio camera’s large ground glass focussing screen and – the view from the camera’s position being slightly different to my own – made as many rearrangements to the flowers as seemed necessary. I then used (apart from a background light) one source of light to try and convey a feeling of outdoors.” Shasta daisies is important within Cotton’s oeuvre for uniting her interest in plants in their natural ‘outdoors’ environment with her enquiry into photographic form and space.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Homage to D.H. Lawrence' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Homage to D.H. Lawrence
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
45.8 x 33.9 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

Dupain admired vitalist philosophies, which argued that modern identity had become fragmented and asserted the importance of the integration of body and emotion, of sensual and emotional experience. He was attracted to the work of British writer D.H. Lawrence, especially his insistence on the ‘thingness’ of things as a way of embodying a properly integrated mind and body. This photograph uses surrealist juxtaposition to draw together a copy of Lawrence’s Selected poems, a flywheel (representing the modern world) and a classical bust, recalling the idealised relationship of natural and sensual worlds in ancient Greece and Rome. Other images incorporating classical busts appeared in the pages of the Modern Photography annuals, but Dupain makes them his own, lifted above mere pastiche.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Orchestration in light' 1937

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Orchestration in light
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 24.1 h x 27.4 w cm sheet 25.4 h x 28.2 w cm
Purchased with assistance from the Helen Ennis Fund
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Cotton took this landscape early one morning at Wullumbi Gorge in the New England tablelands, during a camping trip with Dupain. It is remarkable for both the way the light transforms the landscape into quivering energy and the way Cotton makes sense of that enigmatic experience in pictorial form. As its title suggests, the photograph recalled for Cotton – who trained as a musician as a girl – a musical composition, particularly ‘the beautiful graduation in tone going from a bass tone to a high treble at the top of the picture’.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'The patterned road' 1938

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
The patterned road
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
24.6 h x 28.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1983

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Bawley Point landscape' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Bawley Point landscape
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
29 x 26.6 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

This landscape, one of many taken by Dupain on the south coast of New South Wales, was made in the same year as Cotton’s similar study of shadow and landscape, The patterned road (above). These two landscapes share an interest in what Dupain later termed ‘passing movement and changing form’. Although Dupain rarely published or circulated his landscapes at this time, pictures such as Bawley Point landscape certainly relate to a broad range of other images, perhaps most notably still lifes and nudes, that articulated an Australian modernist photography through the interplay of light passing through openings. These images find monumental stillness in movement and strong shadows, which quite literally ‘double’ their subject.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Over the city' 1940

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Over the city
1940
Gelatin silver photograph
32.2 h x 30.3 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1987

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Grass at sundown' 1939

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
Grass at sundown
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
Primary Insc: Signed and dated l.l. pencil, “Olive Cotton ’39”. Titled l.r. pencil, “Grass at sundown”.
Printed image 28.9 h x 30.8 w cm sheet 30.0 h x 31.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1987

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911 - 1992) 'Design - suburbia' 1933

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911 – 1992)
Design – suburbia
1933
Gelatin silver photograph
29.4 h x 23.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

This early image proudly displays the influence of the work of pictorialist photographers that Dupain knew well, most notably the Sydney-based photographer, Harold Cazneaux. At the time Dupain made this image, he was serving an apprenticeship in the commercial studio of Cecil Bostock, a Pictorialist and founding member with Cazneaux of the Sydney Camera Circle in 1916. Dupain’s interest in the pictorial effects created by light passing through apertures (here, the posts and beams of a suburban fence) seems to remember similar images of light streaming through blinds and pergolas by Cazneaux, who Dupain called ‘the father of modern Australian photography’. The fascination with capturing light as it passes through openings will stay with Dupain throughout his life, though the focus will sharpen as he moves away from the diffused effects favoured by art photographers in the early decades of the century.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911 - 1992) 'Still life' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911 – 1992)
Still life
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
29.0 h x 20.8 w cm
Purchased 1982

 

 

While the subject of this photograph seems to be a simple, lidded pail (which featured in a number of Dupain’s still lifes) seen in morning light, it is actually an exercise in abstraction. Of most interest to Dupain is the complex network of diagonal lines created by light, shadow and timber boards. The picture reflects the pleasure Dupain took in the pictorial effects created by light (he was fond of quoting the Belgian photographer Léonard Misonne’s dictum, ‘the subject is nothing, light is everything’), and at the same time expresses the fundamental principle upon which his photographic practice was always based. While the image of light passing through apertures is an analogy for the way the camera operates, the still life also embodies photography’s expressive potential. As Dupain later stated, ‘with still-life you can arrange or rearrange or do what you like, it becomes a very, very personal exercise that you have total control over’.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain. 'Pyrmont silos' 1933, printed later

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Pyrmont silos
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
Printed image 25.2 h x 19.2 w cm sheet 31.2 h x 26.2 w cm mount 42.4 h x 32.0 w
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976

 

 

Max Dupain was the first Australian photographer to embrace Modernism, and took a number of photographs of Pyrmont silos in the 1930s. There were no skyscrapers in Sydney until the late 1930s so the silos, Walter Burley Griffin’s incinerators and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were the major points of reference for those interested in depicting modern expressions of engineering and industrial power. Olive Cotton’s Drainpipes 1937 shows the precisely formed circles and curves of the pipes, interspersed with slivers of light and long shadows.

In almost text-book fashion, this image reflects Dupain’s assimilation of the aesthetics of contemporary European photography, which he encountered in publications such as the Das Deutsche Lichtbild [The German photograph] and Modern Photography annuals, the 1932 edition of which was edited by Man Ray. While Dupain’s relationship to the contemporary world was complicated, he nonetheless advocated for the latest photographic trends out of Europe and America, and for photographing modern, industrial subjects; as he asserted in 1938, ‘great art has always been contemporary in spirit’. Writing in 1975 about this image for Dupain’s retrospective at the Australian Centre for Photography, fellow photographer David Moore, who had worked with Dupain in the late 1940s, saw it as a turning point in Dupain’s career, believing that here ‘his awareness of the strength of industrial forms was confirmed with confident authority … From this moment any return to sentimental Pictorialism was precluded’.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Pyrmont silos is one of a number of photographs that Dupain took of these constructions in the 1930s. In all cases Dupain examined the silos from a modernist perspective, emphasising their monumentality from low viewpoints under a bright cloudless sky. Additionally, his use of strong shadows to emphasise the forms of the silos and the lack of human figures celebrates the built structure as well as providing no sense of scale. Another photograph by Dupain in the AGNSW collection was taken through a car windscreen so that the machinery of transport merges explicitly with industrialisation into a complex hard-edge image of views and mirror reflections. There were no skyscrapers in Sydney until the late 1930s so the silos, Walter Burley Griffin’s incinerators and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were the major points of reference for those interested in depicting modern expressions of engineering and industrial power.

Dupain was the first Australian photographer to embrace modernism. One of his photographs of the silos was roundly criticised when shown to the New South Wales Photographic Society but Dupain forged on regardless with his reading, thinking and experimentation. Some Australian painting and writing had embraced modernist principles in the 1920s, but as late as 1938 Dupain was writing to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Great art has always been contemporary in spirit. Today we feel the surge of aesthetic exploration along abstract lines, the social economic order impinging itself on art, the repudiation of the ‘truth to nature criterion’ … We sadly need the creative courage of Man Ray, the original thought of Moholy-Nagy, and the dynamic realism of Edouard [sic] Steichen.”1

1. Dupain, M 1938, “Letter to the editor,” in Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website © Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'Backyard, Forster, New South Wales' 1940

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
Backyard, Forster, New South Wales
1940
Gelatin silver photograph
30.5 h x 30.5 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1983

 

 

This highly formal view of the backyard of a hotel in the coastal town of Forster embodies Dupain’s sense of Australian modernist photography. The picture’s frontalism and overriding use of horizontals and verticals acknowledge that the camera faced its subject face-to-face and that the view has been consciously framed. But as the title of the photograph makes clear, it is also a record of a particular place. In his personal copy of G.H. Saxon Mills’ essay ‘Modern photography’, which greatly assisted Dupain to conceptualise his own sense of a contemporary photographic practice, Dupain highlighted and annotated with a question mark the following statement: ‘”modern” photography means photography whose aim is partly or wholly aesthetic, as opposed to photography which is merely documentary or representational.’ Dupain believed that both were possible within the same frame.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) '(Factory chimney stacks)' 1940

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
[Factory chimney stacks]
1940
Gelatin silver photograph
49.0 h x 38.4 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1983

 

 

Dupain highlighted the writer G.H. Saxon Mills’ claim that photography’s value existed in both its capacity to record the world and the optical effects it found or created – ‘its … symphony of forms and textures.’

These factory chimney stacks are reduced to their most simple and direct form, which is shown free of any distraction. As Dupain noted, borrowing from the great American architectural historian Lewis Mumford, the ‘mission of the photograph is to clarify the subject’. The choice of subject matter was influenced by an essay by the English journalist, G.H. Saxon Mills, written in 1931 and read by Dupain soon after: ‘(photography) belongs to the new age … it is part and parcel of the terrific and thrilling panorama opening out before us today – of clean concrete buildings, steel radio masts, and the wings of the air line. But its beauty is only for those who themselves are aware of the ‘zeitgeist’ – who belong consciously and proudly to this age, and have not their eyes forever wistfully fixed on the past.’

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'The way through the trees' 1938

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 – 2003)
The way through the trees
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
29.6 h x 29.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1987

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 - 1992) 'An old country homestead, Western Australia' 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911 – 1992)
An old country homestead, Western Australia
1946
Gelatin silver photograph

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION

 

 

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12
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Max Dupain 
The Paris ‘private’ series and other pictures’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 14th September 2014

 

A good friend of mine, who should know what she is talking about, observed that you cannot look at Dupain’s photographs of Paris without first looking at his commissioned photographs of the then new Embassy of Australia. Unfortunately, I could only find one photograph online to show to you, Embassy of Australia, Paris, France (1978, below), but you get the idea. Dupain’s The Paris ‘private’ series were taken during a couple of days off that he had from the commissioned job. Basically they are tourist photographs, a record of things Dupain wanted to see in Paris on one of his few overseas trips. Most of them are disappointing images, serviceable but disappointing.

Having studied Eugène Atget I expected more from Dupain. In these photographs he tends to shoot obliquely into the object of his attention, directing the lead in and vanishing point(s) within the image. For example, in Untitled (the balustrade of Pont Alexandre III) and Untitled (Pont Alexandre III with sculptural balustrade) (both 1978, below), Dupain allows the bridge parapet to lead the eye into the image, while the vanishing point is positioned at far right. Neither are very successful as formal compositions. The same can be said of Untitled (statue of Maréchal Joffre, Place Joffre, Champ-de-Mars) (1978, below) with the vanishing point this time at the left of the image. More successul is Dupains’s Untitled (staircase to the park, looking toward Bassin des Serruriers, Domaine de Chantilly) (1978, below) with its foreshortened out of focus entrance, geometric planes and multiple exit points – but then he goes and spoils it with the simplistic Untitled (staircase and statue of Anne de Montmorency 1886 by Paul Dubois, Domaine de Chantilly) (1978, below) taken at the same location. The best image from the series is undoubtedly Untitled (the statue of Christ at the portal of La Sainte-Chapelle) (1978, below) with its restrained and refined aesthetic. A beautiful image and a wondrous space. The photograph of the people at the Eiffel Tower is also a cracker.

As I said at the beginning, these are tourist art photographs of Paris, but they could have been so much more.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to The Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Max Dupain (1911-92) is one of the leading figures of 20th-century Australian photography. The group of 21 photographs in his Paris ‘private’ series was taken when he travelled to Paris in 1978 with architect Harry Seidler to photograph the Australian Embassy, designed by Seidler. The series consists of transcendent photographs of Paris. Dupain had studied the work of Eugène Atget, and there is a similar enigmatic atmosphere to be found in Dupain’s examination of the city. Primarily depicting 18th- to 19th-century landmarks such as the ornate Alexandre III bridge, the Grand Palais and Chantilly, this compilation offers a view of the city and its environs shaped by layers of history, mythology and art.

Given to the Gallery by Penelope Seidler in memory of her husband and the photographer, this portfolio is shown alongside other photographs of made and natural structures by Dupain from the 1930s to the 1980s.

 

 

Max Dupain. 'Embassy of Australia, Paris, France' 1978

 

Max Dupain
Embassy of Australia, Paris, France
1978
Silver gelatin print

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (cars on rue de Rivoli)' from The Paris 'private' series Year 1978

 

Max Dupain
Untitled (cars on rue de Rivoli)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Silver gelatin print
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

“I like to involve myself in, maybe, a small area geographically and work it out, as simple as that” said Max Dupain in a 1991 interview.1 During his lifetime the photographer visited only three countries outside of Australia. His 1978 trip to Paris was made together with architect Harry Seidler, whose newly built Australian embassy building Dupain was commissioned to document. The long professional association between the architect and the photographer stretched back to the early 1950s, soon after Seidler’s arrival in Australia. Dupain, through his expressive architectural photographs, was closely involved in popularising the modernist aesthetic espoused by Seidler’s starkly functional buildings.

Conversely, the set of 21 photographs of Paris which Dupain compiled and presented to Seidler as a personal gift, does not contain any images of modern architecture. Primarily depicting 18-19th century landmarks such as the ornate Alexandre III bridge, the Grand Palais and Versailles this compilation offers a view of the city and its environs shaped by layers of history, mythology and art. Dupain was nonetheless well read in modern French culture and aware of photographers such as Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The Parisian images vary from pure architectural studies to compositions with an almost literary scope. They demonstrate Dupain’s signature trait of combining the formal and social aspects of photography. In some of the works, Dupain gives classical architecture the same reductive treatment he brought to modern buildings. Stripped of embellishments, these photographs bring to the fore the essence of order, logic and harmony which lies at the core of classicism. The presence of human figures in photographs such as that of Napoleon’s statue on the balcony of Les Invalides adds a dramatic element to the compositions. Dupain wanted “to extract every ounce of content from any exciting form and I want to give life to the inanimate.”2 Time and the built environment converge in this personal ode to Paris, manifesting the incessant flow of life and the connectedness of past with the present.

1. Max Dupain interviewed by Helen Ennis in Max Dupain: Photographs, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1991, p. 13
2. Max Dupain, “Max Dupain – modernist”, exhibition catalogue, State library of NSW, Sydney, 2007, p. 9

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website

 

Max Dupain (Australia 22 Apr 1911 - 27 Jul 1992) 'Untitled (statue of Maréchal Joffre, Place Joffre, Champ-de-Mars)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Australia 22 Apr 1911 – 27 Jul 1992)
Untitled (statue of Maréchal Joffre, Place Joffre, Champ-de-Mars)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
30.0 x 33.7 cm image
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (staircase to the park, looking toward Bassin des Serruriers, Domaine de Chantilly)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Australia 22 Apr 1911 – 27 Jul 1992)
Untitled (staircase to the park, looking toward Bassin des Serruriers, Domaine de Chantilly)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
30.5 x 36.7 cm image
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain (Australia 22 Apr 1911 - 27 Jul 1992) 'Untitled (staircase and statue of Anne de Montmorency 1886 by Paul Dubois, Domaine de Chantilly)' from 'The Paris 'private' series' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Australia 22 Apr 1911 – 27 Jul 1992)
Untitled (staircase and statue of Anne de Montmorency 1886 by Paul Dubois, Domaine de Chantilly)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
31.2 x 30.3 cm image
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (the balustrade of Pont Alexandre III)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (the balustrade of Pont Alexandre III)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (Pont Alexandre III with sculptural balustrade)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (Pont Alexandre III with sculptural balustrade)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (the glass dome of Grand Palais)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (the glass dome of Grand Palais)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (interior staircase and cart wheels)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (interior staircase and cart wheels)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (cannon with a guard standing in a doorway)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (cannon with a guard standing in a doorway)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (the statue of Christ at the portal of La Sainte-Chapelle)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (the statue of Christ at the portal of La Sainte-Chapelle)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (Place Vendôme with the column)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (Place Vendôme with the column)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain (Australia 22 Apr 1911 - 27 Jul 1992) 'Untitled (tree on Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg, with Hôtel des Invalides in the distance)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Australia 22 Apr 1911 – 27 Jul 1992)
Untitled (tree on Boulevard de la Tour Maubourg, with Hôtel des Invalides in the distance)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
35.6 x 30.2 cm image
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (mythological sculptural group at the Grand Palais)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (mythological sculptural group at the Grand Palais)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (woman with pram in Jardin des Tuileries)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (woman with pram in Jardin des Tuileries)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (group of people near the Eiffel tower)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (group of people near the Eiffel tower)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (Les Invalides)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (Les Invalides)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Untitled (Napoleon's statue on the balcony of Les Invalides)' 1978

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Untitled (Napoleon’s statue on the balcony of Les Invalides)
1978
From The Paris ‘private’ series
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of Penelope Seidler AM in honour of Max Dupain AC and Harry Seidler AC 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Estate of Max Dupain. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

“An exhibition of 36 photographs – 21 of which were taken in Paris in 1978 by one of Australia’s most well-known photographers, Max Dupain (1911-92) – will go on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Donated to the Gallery by Penelope Seidler in 2012, this will be the first time the Paris ‘private’ series portfolio will have ever been seen publicly. Max Dupain had gifted these works to renowned architect Harry Seidler and in a handwritten note he wrote:

I owe you so much. For nearly twenty five years I have dwelt on your philosophy of architecture. We register alike about clear thinking, logic of application, poetry of form etc etc. [sic] I have tremendous regard for architecture as a stabilising force in this turbulent society and I think my best work will ultimately show the significance of this by virtue of the photographed form thrown up by architecture and by engineering.

Dupain made the trip to Paris, his second outside Australia and his first to Europe, to accompany his long-time colleague and friend, Harry Seidler (1923-2006). Dupain’s task was to photograph the Australian Embassy there, which Seidler had designed (completed 1977). The pair were not only friends but shared a deep appreciation for form and light, for the modernist curves in space that can be created both architecturally and photographically.

Dupain explored many monuments around Paris. These impressions of a place he was seeing for the first time reveal his exploration of a new city and its sites, varying from formal compositions of photographic space, such as the image of Napoleon’s statue on the balcony of Les Invalides, to more personal or candid moments, as with the group of people captured beneath the Eiffel Tower. Many photographs depict 18th- and 19th-century landmarks such as the ornate Alexandre III bridge, the Grand Palais and Chantilly; the compilation offers a view of Paris and its environs shaped by layers of history, mythology and art.

Despite the diversity of subject matter across the 21 images, Dupain always maintained his signature poise and rigour, appreciation of the way light interacts with the objects it touches, and attention to the composition of photographic space through a play of scale.

In addition to the Paris ‘private’ series, 15 of Dupain’s photographs of architectural and botanical forms will be on display. Almost all are taken in and around Sydney; some of the flowers are from Dupain’s Castlecrag garden and iconic Sydney buildings such as the Opera House are included. These images cover 50 years of the photographer’s practice from 1933 to 1983, and indicate his enduring appreciation for the order, logic and harmony which lie at the core of classicism, the movement that produced many of the iconic Parisian monuments he saw, and for the modernism which Seidler endorsed through his work.”

Press release from the AGNSW website

 

Max Dupain. 'Pyrmont silos' 1933, printed later

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Pyrmont silos
1933, printed later
Gelatin silver photograph
Purchased 1976

 

Pyrmont silos is one of a number of photographs that Dupain took of these constructions in the 1930s. In all cases Dupain examined the silos from a modernist perspective, emphasising their monumentality from low viewpoints under a bright cloudless sky. Additionally, his use of strong shadows to emphasise the forms of the silos and the lack of human figures celebrates the built structure as well as providing no sense of scale. Another photograph by Dupain in the AGNSW collection was taken through a car windscreen so that the machinery of transport merges explicitly with industrialisation into a complex hard-edge image of views and mirror reflections. There were no skyscrapers in Sydney until the late 1930s so the silos, Walter Burley Griffin’s incinerators and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were the major points of reference for those interested in depicting modern expressions of engineering and industrial power.

Dupain was the first Australian photographer to embrace modernism. One of his photographs of the silos was roundly criticised when shown to the New South Wales Photographic Society but Dupain forged on regardless with his reading, thinking and experimentation. Some Australian painting and writing had embraced modernist principles in the 1920s, but as late as 1938 Dupain was writing to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Great art has always been contemporary in spirit. Today we feel the surge of aesthetic exploration along abstract lines, the social economic order impinging itself on art, the repudiation of the ‘truth to nature criterion’ … We sadly need the creative courage of Man Ray, the original thought of Moholy-Nagy, and the dynamic realism of Edouard [sic] Steichen.”1

1. Dupain, M 1938, “Letter to the editor,” in Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Max Dupain. 'Monstera deliciosa' 1970

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Monstera deliciosa
1970
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of the artist 1981
© Max Dupain, 1970. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain 'Nasturtium leaves' 1981

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Nasturtium leaves
1981
Gelatin silver photograph
40 × 50.4 cm
Gift of Edron Pty Ltd 1995 through the auspices of Alistair McAlpine
© Estate of Max Dupain, licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain 'Australia Square and Calder sculpture, Sydney' 1968

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Australia Square and Calder sculpture, Sydney
1968
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of the artist 1981
© Estate of Max Dupain, licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'The magnolia' 1983

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
The magnolia
1983
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of the artist 1986
© Max Dupain, 1983. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Max Dupain. 'Stair rail' 1975

 

Max Dupain (Born Australia 1911, died 1992)
Stair rail
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
Gift of the artist 1981
© Max Dupain, 1975. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
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20
Jan
13

Review: ‘Ingeborg Tyssen: photographs’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2012 – 3rd February 2013

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

 

“Tysenn clearly felt a deep sense of dislocation from her country of birth, its national identity and cultural conventions. It was apparent in her ongoing explorations of the Australian landscape that on her arrival she had met with more than just an initial linguistic barrier, and there were also barriers to understanding the Australian landscape which was so far and different to European forests and Dutch tales and legends about them that she grew up with.”

.
Essay “Remembering Ingeborg” by Sandra Byron

 

“Tyssen’s people are not known to her, rather are studies of anonymous people: in action, in the city, at a fairground. The People series – City Light 1977 images reveal a sense of isolation in a crowd. People emerging from the dark shadows of the same station/ mall and march into the sunlight. They are expressionless, uncommunicative, isolated, yet display a keen sense of self and appearance. Mostly minding their own business, doing their own thing, they seem undisturbed by the female photographer standing nearby. She must not have been intrusive or demanding, just there with her camera at the ready.”

.
Fiona McIntosh on the art out there blog 2012

 

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from the series 'People' 1977

 

Ingeborg Tyssen
Untitled
1977
From the People series
Gelatin silver print
Image size 20.1 x 25.2cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Janice Hinderaker through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2003

 

Garry Winogrand. 'Untitled' from Women are Beautiful' Nd/1981

 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984)
Untitled
Nd (1960s) / published 1981
From the portfolio Women are Beautiful
Silver gelatin print

 

Harry Callahan. 'Chicago' 1961

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
1961
Gelatin silver print
Overall (image): 40.6 x 27.1cm (16 x 10 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family
© Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

“Ingeborg Tyssen was one of the great Australian photographers of her generation.” (Press release)

“Ingeborg Tysenn was one of Australia’s most important post war artists.”
(Essay “Remembering Ingeborg” by Sandra Byron)

 

 

This is a very disappointing exhibition of the work of Australian photographer Ingeborg Tyssen at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne encumbered as it is by the above two statements. On the evidence of the work presented neither statement is true. Whoever is pushing this barrow (and it is a large barrow to push) should really stop and have a damn good look at the work to see whether it is worthy of such claims and what they hope to achieve by promoting such statements. If they really looked objectively they would see that the art just is, and nothing more.

Being a cultural commentator means that you have to form an opinion on the work presented. For me this involves the eye (what the work looks like), the head (undertaking research into the artist) and the heart (how I feel about the work). Then and only then can you make an informed decision on the merits of the work. With Tyssen’s work there were four standout photographs in the exhibition (people in a swimming pool taken in the Modernist style, part of the 1981 Ryde Pool, Sydney series, none of which I can show you in this posting) and the rest of the photographs were serviceable but derivative of other artists.

Tyssen was born in The Netherlands and arrived here when she was 12 years old. Her photographs show a European and Australian sensibility, a dislocation from but also an attraction toward both her native country and her adopted country Australia. Her photographs can be divided into various styles: early documentary street photography (the People series, 1977), Modernist photography (Ryde Pool, Sydney series, 1981 and From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road series, 1982-84), New Topographics photography (Billboards and Trees series, 1981-82) and Romantic photography (The voice of silence series 1991-92). Unfortunately, Tyssen never seems to have developed a voice of her own, a signature style that you could say was unique to her own art practice. So many of these photographs are derivative of other photographers who have already invented and mastered that style that nothing seems to belong to Tyssen herself. She seems to have been enamoured of style after style.

In the high contrast, small scale People series (1977, above) the animals are particularly unapproachable. While exhibiting a sense of Australian light and an intimation of Australia’s white only policy – there is a specific Australian-ness in the people she has chosen and the atmosphere of Whitlam / post Whitlam remaking of the Australian identity; even the lady with the European aura knows she is in Australia, perhaps she even knows she is in the Australian light – these are hard images to engage with emotionally, unlike the psychological works of Harry Callahan and Garry Winogrand. Problematically, the Billboards and Trees series (both 1981-82, below) are so redolent of American photography (both in physical dis/location and surface remarks) that I felt I had seen it all before and done better. In these series Australia morphs into America and not in a good way; I did not find the artist’s purported wit and humour any help either. In the panoramic series From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road (1982-84, below) Tyssen comes closest to capturing the intensity of the Australian landscape only to be let down by a) the quality of the prints and b) the fact that the title is a coat hanger, allowing the artist to hang disparate images together that really have no relationship to each other – an overall lumping together concept. The prints themselves do nothing to support the work, being sometimes too pale and insignificant to hold the image, too flat. Playing with the print and its tonal range and surface qualities does little to help an overall vision of the work or help the viewer engage with the content.

In my notes I wrote in capital letters: THEY DON’T ENGAGE ME!
In other words, there was nothing that held my attention image after image, time after time.

Tyssen seems to have known her limitations as well. She just wanted to be a photographer and kept persevering at her art. At their best Tyssen’s photographs lie somewhere between Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson without the decisive moment (look at the photograph Taronga Zoo, Sydney, 1974 below and you will understand what I mean). The weakness of her images was really brought home to me when, in a small gallery off to the side of the main space, there in all its glory was one of the iconic images of a generation – Vale Street (1975) by Carol Jerrems. This one image, one image, had more power over me, more feeling, more beauty than all of Tyssen’s images put together. People really do need to stop making grandiose statements about the work of artists and let the viewer just look clearly at the art. That way there is little expectation, the work will be taken on its merits, and everyone may be quietly surprised at the outcome.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

.
Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the essay by Sandra Byron, “Remembering Ingeborg: A personal appreciation of the life and work of Ingeborg Tyssen” (2.24Mb pdf)

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Perisher Valley, NSW' from the series 'From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road' series 1984

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Perisher Valley, NSW
1984
From the series From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road 1982-84
Silver gelatin print

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Perisher Valley No 6, NSW' 1984

 

Ingeborg Tyssen
Perisher Valley No 6, NSW
1984
From the series From the heart of the forest to the edge of the road 1982-84
Gelatin silver print
14.5 x 35.7cm
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1989
© Ingeborg Tyssen, 1984. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen
Courtesy John Williams & Sandra Byron Gallery

 

Ingeborg TYSSEN. '
Royal Easter Show, Sydney' 1982

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)

Royal Easter Show, Sydney
1982
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Untitled' from 'The voice of silence' series 1991-1992

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Untitled
1991-1992
From The voice of silence series 1991-92
Gelatin silver print

 

Ingeborg TYSSEN. 'Taronga Zoo, Sydney' 1974

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Taronga Zoo, Sydney
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Royal Easter Show, Sydney' 1979

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Royal Easter Show, Sydney
1979
Silver gelatin print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (1945-2002) was one of the great Australian photographers of her generation. Although generally overlooked by critics during her lifetime in favour of many of her male counterparts, Tyssen left us a remarkable body of work. Ingeborg Tyssen: photographs is the first museum retrospective of her work in Victoria, and the first major exhibition since her memorial show was held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2002.

This exhibition provides a great opportunity for audiences to view the work of this major figure. Spanning 20 years of creative output from 1974-94, Ingeborg Tyssen: photographs shows Tyssen as a highly original observer of modern life. Her candid photographs of pedestrians in city streets, young kids playing in suburban swimming pools, and images of the Australian and American landscape reveal an artist whose concerns were at the forefront of Australian photographic practice.

MGA Gallery Director Shaune Lakin states, “Tyssen’s story is one of the great stories of Australian photography. Her arrival in Australia at the age of 12 as an immigrant from her native Holland and her struggle with displacement and new language and landscape is one that many Australians are familiar with. Being one of Australia’s first street photographers, she made a significant contribution to the history of Australian photography. Her experience of migration gave Tyssen a rare ability to observe people in their environment. Her earliest photographs, taken in the city streets, fun parks, and suburbs of 1970s were acute depictions of the urban isolation she felt in her new homeland. Her experience and pictures certainly remain relevant to contemporary Australia.”

In 1995 the Art Gallery of New South Wales presented a mid-career survey of her work and she continued to exhibit in commercial galleries and museums in Australia and abroad until she died as a result of a motor accident in 2002. In her obituary, critic Robert McFarlane wrote: “With Tyssen’s death, Australia has lost one of the most talented photographers from the postwar generation…The originality and lack of ego in these images will ensure their enduring place in the history of the medium.”

Tyssen studied photography under John Williams, who became her husband. She was a co-founder of the Photographers Gallery in South Yarra in 1975.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Ryde Pool, Sydney' 1981

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)

Untitled
1981
From the series Ryde Pool, Sydney
Ink-jet print
Collection of the Estate of Ingeborg Tyssen

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Pyrmont, Sydney' 1982

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Pyrmont, Sydney
1982
From the series Billboards 1981-82
Silver gelatin print

 

Ingeborg Tyssen. 'Annandale, Sydney' 1981

 

Ingeborg Tyssen (Netherlands, Australia 1945-2002)
Annandale, Sydney
1981
From the series Trees 1981-82
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
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Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
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Monash Gallery of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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