Harold Pierce Cazneaux (1878–1953) was born in Wellington, New Zealand, the son of an English photographer and Australian miniature painter. The family moved to Adelaide in the 1890s. Cazneaux attended a local state school and then worked in his father’s studio. He attended evening classes in the School of Design, Painting and Technical Art. In 1904 he moved to Sydney, where he lived for the rest of his life. He became manager of Freeman & Company’s studio and began exhibiting photographs, holding his first one-man exhibition in 1909. He was one of the founders of the Sydney Camera Circle in 1916. He left Freeman’s in 1918 and thereafter worked as a freelance photographer, contributing photographs to journals such as Home and Art in Australia, producing books and writing columns for Sydney newspapers and photographic journals.
Cazneaux bridged the gap between commercial and art photography and between the pictorialist and modernist schools of photography. He was converted to pictorialism in 1898, when he saw an exhibition in Adelaide of impressionist-style photographs of John Kauffman, who had lived in England and Europe for 10 years and was familiar with the bromoil landscapes of Horsley Hinton. By 1910 Cazneaux was the leader of the pictorialist movement in Australia, which held that photography was a form of high art, closely linked to painting. He manipulated negatives and prints to produce soft focus images and became an expert in the use of the bromoil process. In the 1920s and 1930s his work showed features of modernism, especially in his images of surfers, sunbakers and the steel and concrete of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. His subject matter was wide, ranging from portraits of children, society ladies and artists to photographs of old Sydney, city streets, buildings, factories, gardens, gum trees, rural landscapes and light patterns.
Among Cazneaux’s publications were:
Canberra, Australia’s federal capital (1928)
Sydney Harbour (1928)
Sydney surfing (1929)
The bridge book (1930)
The Sydney book (1931)
The Frensham book (1934).
The Library first acquired some glass negatives of Cazneaux in 1956 from his widow, Winifred Cazneaux. In 1974, 224 prints were donated by their five daughters, Rainbow Johnson, Jean Blundell, Beryl Cazneaux, Carmen Field and Joan Smith. Further photographs were donated in 1984–85 and in 1991 the five sisters presented about 4000 negatives, mostly on glass, and also a collection of personal papers. In 1998 Joan Smith donated about 300 negatives of family photographs. Some additional papers were received from Cazneaux’s grand-daughter, Sally Garrett, in 2003.
The Cazneaux Collection comprises 272 exhibition prints, about 200 working photographs which were experiments or rejected for better prints, and about 4300 glass negatives. They mostly date from 1904 to 1940.
The subjects of the photographs include old Sydney streets and buildings, Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay, public and commercial buildings, stately homes, the construction and opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge, beaches, surf races, the visits of the Prince of Wales (1920) and the Duke of York (1927), Frensham School, Newcastle steelworks, the Blue Mountains, the Southern Highlands, the Canberra countryside, the Murray River, the Flinders Ranges, sheep mustering, stock routes, gum trees and koalas. As well as many photographs of children (especially the Cazneaux children), society ladies and wedding parties, there are portraits of well-known artists such as Oscar Asche, Julian Ashton, Hans Heysen, Nora Heysen, Alfred Hill, Rayner Hoff, George Lambert, Lionel Lindsay, Norman Lindsay, Nellie Melba, Yehudi Menuhin, Anna Pavlova and Margaret Preston.
There is also a group of photographs taken by Cazneaux’s son, Harold Cazneaux (1920–1941) at a military camp at Raymond Terrace, New South Wales, in 1940.
In addition to the photographs, the collection contains six pen and ink, pencil and charcoal drawings by Cazneaux. They depict buildings and ships and are undated. The Library also holds the silver medal won by Cazneaux at the Commemorative Salon of Photography in Sydney in 1938.
Manuscripts and Personal Papers
The personal papers of Cazneaux mostly consist of letters written to him between 1903 and 1953. They include newspapers, journals, publishers and photographic societies as well as correspondence with artists such as Julian Ashton, Hans Heysen, Rayner Hoff, Bertram Mackennal and Margaret Preston. In addition, there are drafts of reviews, articles and broadcasts, papers concerning the Photographic Society of New South Wales, and notes about Cazneaux by Beryl Cazneaux and Sally Garrett.
The photographs of Cazneaux are kept together as a formed collection within the Pictures Collection. The exhibition prints have been catalogued individually and have mostly been digitised. The negatives are kept in three series: the main series (151 boxes), J series (1420 items) and the HB (Harbour Bridge) series (390 items). Prints have been made of all the negatives and many have been digitised. There is an item listing for each of the three series. Prints have been made of the 353 family photographs and they are filed in Album 950.
The drawings by Cazneaux and the medal are also held in the Pictures Collection.
The manuscripts and papers of Cazneaux are held at MS 5955 and MS 8361 in the Manuscripts Collection. A finding aid is available online at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-342614966/findingaid.
Significant collections of photographs of Cazneaux are also held in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Mitchell Library (State Library of New South Wales) and the National Gallery of Australia.
Cato, Jack, The Cazneaux story, Australasian photo-review, vol. 59 (12), December 1952, pp. 721–68.
Cazneaux, the quiet observer, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1994 (introduced by Helen Ennis, with a personal commentary by Phillip Adams).
Dupain, Max (ed.), Cazneaux : photographs by Harold Cazneaux, 1878-1953, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1978.
Edwards, Zeny, Sunlight & shadow: the lifework of Harold Cazneaux, Wild & Woolley, Sydney, 1996.
Esau, Erika, Behind the camera: the family albums of Harold Cazneaux, National Library of Australia news, vol. 10 (2), November 1999, pp. 3–7.
Lynch, Lesley G., Cazneaux, Harold Pierce (1878–1953), Australian dictionary of biography online
First posted 2008 (revised 2019)