Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cazneaux, Harold Pierce (1878–1953)

by Lesley G. Lynch

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Harold Pierce Cazneaux (1878-1953), by Monte Luke

Harold Pierce Cazneaux (1878-1953), by Monte Luke

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an12148506

Harold Pierce Cazneaux (1878-1953), photographer, was born on 30 March 1878 in Wellington, New Zealand, son of Pierce Mott Cazneaux, an English-born photographer, and his wife Emily Florence, née Bentley, a colourist and miniature painter from Sydney. In the 1890s the family moved to Adelaide and Mott became manager of Hammer & Co.'s Rundle Street studio. Harold went to a local state school; he started to work in his father's studio and attended H. P. Gill's evening classes at the School of Design, Painting and Technical Arts. As a young man his passion for photography as an art was aroused by an exhibition of new 'pictorial movement' photographs from England.

Cazneaux moved to Sydney in 1904 and worked in Freeman & Co. Ltd's studio, becoming manager and chief operator. On 1 September 1905 at Lewisham he married Mabel Winifred Hodge. In his leisure time he began to document old Sydney. In 1907 he showed photographs at the members' exhibition of the Photographic Society of New South Wales and two years later held the first one-man exhibition in Australia: the critics praised the diversity of his work. He sent some of his pictures overseas and was recognized as a pioneer of the pictorial movement. In 1916 with five friends, he founded the amateur Sydney Camera Circle. Opposed to slavish imitation of overseas trends, he argued for a break with the typical low-toned British print in favour of 'truly Australian sunshine effects'.

In 1914 Cazneaux won Kodak's 'Happy Moments' contest and used the £100 as a deposit for a house in Roseville where he lived and from 1920 worked for the rest of his life. Frustrated and in poor health, he had left Freeman's in 1918 and was rescued from penury by S. Ure Smith, who gave him regular work for his new publications the Home and Art in Australia. His frontispiece photograph for the first issue of the Home in 1920 used sunshine effects so successfully that it sparked a new trend in local photograpy. 'Caz' benefited greatly from the publicity. A member of the London Salon of Photography, he exhibited there from at least 1911 and in 1924, with other members of the camera circle, opened the short-lived Australian Salon with a hanging of 170 pictures.

Cazneaux's stature is based on the extraordinary diversity of his work—landscapes and portraits. He produced a series of portraits of well-known artists, musicians, and actors and many books including Canberra, Australia's Federal Capital (1928), Sydney Surfing (1929), The Bridge Book (1930), The Sydney Book (1931), Frensham Book (1934), and the jubilee number of the B.H.P. Review (1935). As a critic he wrote for the Australasian Photographic Review and the Gallery Gazette, London, and columns for the Lone Hand and Sydney Mail. Sometime president of the Photographic Society of New South Wales, he was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain in 1937.

Survived by his wife and five daughters, who all helped in his studio, Cazneaux died at his Roseville home on 19 June 1953 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His only son was killed at the siege of Tobruk, North Africa, in 1941.

Select Bibliography

  • F. J. Mortimer (ed), Photograms of the Year 1919 (Lond, 1920)
  • M. Dupain (ed), Cazneaux (Canb, 1978)
  • Australasian Photographic Review, Mar 1909, May 1924, Dec 1952
  • Australian Photographic Journal, Mar 1909
  • Contemporary Photography, May-June 1948
  • Etruscan, Dec 1970
  • Keast Burke, correspondence with H. Cazneaux (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Lesley G. Lynch, 'Cazneaux, Harold Pierce (1878–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cazneaux-harold-pierce-5542/text9443, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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