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As the instigator of Modernist Photography in Australia, Max Dupain in the mid-1930s began shooting industrial landscapes and machinery with angular, cropped images. Perhaps there was a sense that by championing the Industrial, the world could speed out of the great Depression. There was also the visual aesthetic of late Art Deco where design elements favoured speed, angularity and bold lines. European photographers such as Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007) and Mark Strizic (born 1928) who later arrived in Australia added to this legacy of the industrial image.

However, by the late-1930s Modernist Photography addressed more humanist concerns. When Dupain turned his lens on people, there was a truthful sensibility that goes beyond the commercial pose of documentary that was championed by magazines such as Life or the cosmetic ruse of the fashion image.  When we view his Meat Queue image of 1946, we sense a social caring as much as a brutal documentary record.

However, Dupains most famous image is the current work, Sunbaker 1937. It was taken on the South Coast of New South Wales where he photographed his friend Harold Savage lying on Cullburra Beach. It carries a particularly Australian between-the-wars humanist aesthetic and captures perfectly our Bondi love affair with beach culture. Since its purchase by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, it has achieved the status of an Australian icon.

Staff Writer

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