Posts Tagged ‘Australian nude photography

27
Jan
21

Photographs: ‘Women’ 1960s Australian 35mm colour slides Part 1

January 2021

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (1)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

 

Before lockdown struck Melbourne I travelled up to Daylesford (an hour and a half from the city) and purchased a Hanimex carousel containing approximately 88 colour slides of nude women, from an antique centre for $80. Mounted in Kodak Ready-mounts, the slide film itself has no markings – no number and no name, completely blank. These could therefore be dupe (duplicate) slides, where the film has no brand.

I have spent hours digitally restoring these slides for they were in a poor state. You can see a detail from an unrestored slide below. Unfortunately the colour has gone but I felt the slides were so interesting, so beautiful, that they were worth preserving. What makes them rare is that most of the slides are Australian, set on the beach and in the bush. I have never seen anything like them in Australian photography before. This posting features the most Australian of the slides with background of surf, sand and sea, Australian gums and fauna.

There is nothing prudish or smutty about these photographs. Despite the professional? amateur? photographer being almost certainly male (and all the appellations that the male gaze brings with it), the women are joyful when displaying their bodies, unafraid and uninhibited in the posing of their bodies before the camera. Here “the enshrining of Woman as a blank screen upon which the ideas and desires of both artist and viewer are projected” is balanced by the identity, presence and vitality of the women themselves. They take possession of their image, not simply as passive participants in the act of representation, but as active, engaged, powerful human beings who have a vital role in their own portrayal.

This posing has historical links to the history and photography of naturism (naturism is a lifestyle of non-sexual nudity, and the cultural movement which advocates for and defends that lifestyle. Both may also be referred to as nudism) and vitalist1, movements which sprung up around the world before and after the First World War.2 Examples of magazines and pamphlets from 1921-1949 can be seen at the bottom of the posting including an Australian publication, Physique Culture Art Album, c. 1936-40. As with early male physique magazines, early naturist magazines link the beauty of the physical form to the classical ideal; and being natural, in the sun, outdoors to health and vitality (“A Magazine for all interested in Physical Fitness, Hygiene, Diet, Sunbathing, and a Healthy Natural Life”).

Whether these photographs were for personal use, or for publication, remains unknown. Either way, the photographer has access to numerous models. In this posting there seem to be 6 separate photo sessions featuring different models – 1-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-22, 23-32, and 33-37. Numbers 1-9 and 10-14 may be the same model but I am unsure of this.

What I am sure of is this: the photographer is not some drongo who does not know how to use a camera. He is wonderfully proficient with a camera, an artist in every sense of the word. I just look at the line of the body in No. 4 and 5 and note the light, the placement of the figure against the background and the position of the horizon line, the elongation of the female form, the sensuous curve of the body… similarly, the beauty, suppleness, lighting and placement of the body in No’s 23-27 is a delight. How he fills the pictorial frame with the horizontal body in No. 25 with the knee touching the edge of the frame on the right hand side, the feet and hands touching the sand, the head thrown back and cropped, the upper line of the body following the line of the dam behind, the undulating curve of the upper and lower body mimicking the curve of the hand, low depth of field and beautiful light, is superlative.

I have never had the opportunity to photograph the female form but in finding these colour slides, rescuing them from oblivion, studying them, imbibing them, the process has given me a greater insight into the vitality and beauty of the female form, a deeper understanding of the anima (originally used to describe ideas such as breath, soul, spirit or vital force, Jung began using the term in the early 1920s to describe the inner feminine side of men),3 and of mother / earth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1/ “Faced with ‘a queasy sickening feeling that all was not right’, by the fin-de-siècle many Modernists in America, Australia, Britain, Canada and Europe expanded the field of art into raw nature, ethnic communities and tribal cultures as vitalisers of energy that could be emotionally and creatively liberating. Following theories of Vitalism by Henri Bergson, Hans Driesch, Alois Riegl and Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘the vital state’ (‘l’élan vital’) became widely engaged for its conception of life as a constant process of metamorphosis, impelled by the free flow of energies able to generate what Bergson called ‘creative evolution’. Imbricated within Neo-Lamarckian ecological evolutionary theories, Vitalism was also embraced for being anti-rationalist and anti-mechanistic, particularly in its opposition to Thomas Huxley’s conception of plants and animals as machines, and its reconception of them as inspiring organisms within unspoiled nature, perpetually mutating into increasingly complex species and solidarist colonies following the Transformist concept of ‘life-force’.

Pitched against mechanistic productivity and repressive materialism, Vitalism spawned an expanding field of Modernist art in which artists embraced nature, intuition, instinct, spontaneity, chance, intense emotion, memory, unconscious states, uncanny vibrations, and a psychology of time. This pursuit was enhanced by the further expansion of art into Anthroposophy, Organicism, Supernaturalism, Magnetism, Eurhythmics, Freikorperkultur, Heliotherapy, Herbalism, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Nudism, Theosophy and Vegetarianism, free dance plus regenerative new sports and physical cultures. The artists exploring this expanded field were doing so … within cultures as geopolitically widespread as Britain, China, France, Iceland, Oslo, Switzerland and the Soviet Union.”

Anonymous. “Vitalist Modernism,” on the Association for Art History website [Online] Cited 27/01/2021.

2/ Body culture

The terrible physical losses and psychological traumas of the First World War changed Australian society and prompted anxious concerns about the direction of the nation. For some this meant an inward-looking isolationism, a desire that Australian culture should develop independently and untouched by the ‘degenerate’ influences of Europe.

The search for rejuvenation frequently involved explorations of the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the human body. In the hands of artists, corporeal forms came to symbolise nationhood, most often expressed through references to the art of Classical Greece and mythological subjects. The evolution of a new Australian ‘type’ was also proposed in the 1930s – a white Australian drawn from British stock, but with an athletic and streamlined shape honed by time spent swimming and surfing on local beaches.

This art often has a distinctive quality to it, which in the light of history can sometimes make for disquieting viewing. With the terrible knowledge of how the Nazi Party in Germany subsequently used eugenics in its systematic slaughter of those with so-called ‘bad blood’, the Australian enthusiasm for ‘body culture’ can now seem problematic. Images of muscular nationalism soon lost their cache in Australia following the Second World War, tainted by undesirable fascistic overtones.

In the 1930s Max Dupain responded to Henri Bergson’s book Creative Evolution (1907) in which he considered creativity and intuition as central to the renewed development of society, and the artist as prime possessor of these powers. Vitalism, as this philosophy was termed, was believed to be expressed through polarised sexual energies. …

The invocation of the Classical body as a modern prototype was a powerful idea in the 1930s. The Graeco- Roman goddess Diana, the virgin patron goddess of the hunt, was popularly invoked as an ideal of female perfection, and represented with a slender and athletic physique.

Anonymous wall text from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, July – October 2017

3/ Anima originated from Latin, and was originally used to describe ideas such as breath, soul, spirit or vital force. Jung began using the term in the early 1920s to describe the inner feminine side of men.

Anima: The inner self of an individual; the soul. In Jungian psychology, the unconscious or true inner self of an individual, as opposed to the persona, or outer aspect of the personality. In Jungian psychology, the feminine inner personality as present in the unconscious of the male.

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (2)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s? (detail unrestored)

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (2) (detail unrestored)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (3)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (4)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (5)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (6)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (7)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (8)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (9)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (10)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (11)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (12)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (13)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (14)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (15)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (16)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (17)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (18)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (19)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (20)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (21)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (22)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (23)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (24)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (25)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (26)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (27)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (28)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (29)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (30)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (31)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (32)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (33)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (34)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (35)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (36)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (36) (detail unrestored)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (37)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

Athletic Publications Ltd. (London) (Publisher). 'Through the Day. How workers can easily increase their health, efficiency, and happiness' 1921

 

Athletic Publications Ltd. (London) (Publisher)
Through the Day. How workers can easily increase their health, efficiency, and happiness
1921

 

Vivre Integralement #103 15th October 1931 French Naturist Magazine

 

Vivre Integralement #103
15th October 1931
French Naturist Magazine

 

Health & Physical Culture Publishing Co. Ltd. (Sydney Australia) (Publisher) 'Physique Culture Art Album' c. 1936-40

 

Health & Physical Culture Publishing Co. Ltd. (Sydney Australia) (Publisher)
Physique Culture Art Album
c. 1936-40

 

Sun Bathing Review Summer 1939

 

Sun Bathing Review
Vol. 7, No. 26
Summer 1939

 

Health & Efficiency April 1941

 

Health & Efficiency
Volume XI, No. 4
April 1941

 

Health & Efficiency April 1941

 

Health & Efficiency
Volume XI, No. 4
April 1941

 

The Naturist May 1943

 

The Naturist
May 1943

 

The Naturist May 1943

 

The Naturist
Vol. VI, No. 6
May 1943

 

Sun Bathing Review Autumn 1943

 

Sun Bathing Review
Vol. II, No. 43
Autumn 1943

 

Rosemary Andrée. 'My Life Story' 1945

 

Rosemary Andrée
My Life Story
1945

 

 

British performer, actress, dancer and physical culture expert Rosemary Andrée. Andrée became known as Britain’s “Pocket Venus” and toured internationally in stage shows, modelled for Britain’s finest photographers, made home exercise movies for women and enjoyed great public appeal during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

 

Douglas Stewart. 'Beauty and Naturism' April 1947

 

Douglas Stewart
Beauty and Naturism
Paperback
April 1947

 

Health and Efficiency May 1949

 

Health and Efficiency
May 1949

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?). 'Nude portrait' 1960s?

 

Unknown photographer (Australian?)
Nude portrait (38)
1960s?
35mm colour slide

 

 

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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

View Max Dupain photographs Part 2

.
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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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.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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