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Max Dupain - On Assignment

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by Carolyn Hopping (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Event: -
See Works by One of Australia's Most Iconic Photographers
Born in Sydney in 1911, Max Dupain is widely considered to have been one of Australia's foremost modernist photographers, whose iconic images of the Australian lifestyle during the early and mid twentieth century captured the dynamic spirit of the times. His interest in photography was piqued when, at the age of thirteen, he was given his first camera and throughout his teenage years he cultivated his interest, winning the Carter Memorial Prize for Productive Use of Spare Time in 1928, and joining the NSW Photographic Society the following year.

Photo of Max Dupain taken by Geoffery Powell in 1938. Image is from Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of Max Dupain taken by Geoffery Powell in 1938. Image is from Wikimedia Commons.


During a three year apprenticeship with prominent Sydney photographer Cecil Bostock, Dupain learnt the technical aspects of early studio photography, while attendance at Julian Ashton's famous art school also instilled within him an appreciation for its potential as an art-form. While he experimented with different styles of photography during this period, it was the modernist approach which most captured his interest.

Valentina Blinova in L'Oiseau de feu by Max Dupain. This image is from Wikimedia Commons.
Valentina Blinova in L'Oiseau de feu by Max Dupain. This image is from Wikimedia Commons.


Inspired by the dramatic changes which were taking place in Western society during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and especially the growth of large industrial cities and the horrors of World War I, Modernism challenged many of the established traditions of creative practice. During his early years as a photographer, Dupain was strongly influenced by many of these 'new' ideas from Europe and America, and during the 1930s he began to experiment with rayographs, montaged imagery and surreal images.

'Sunbaker' by Max Dupain, 1937. This image is from Wikipedia.
'Sunbaker' by Max Dupain, 1937. This image is from Wikipedia.


Throughout his career, Dupain also used photography in various other ways, including portraiture, documentary photography (accepting a commission from the Department of Information to portray the Australian way of life, with the purpose of increasing migration to Australia), and accepting commissions from various other government departments and industrial firms. He also worked with some of Australia's foremost modernist architects as well as the National Trust, to produce many highly-acclaimed images of both contemporary and historic architecture.

North Terrace in Adelaide by Max Dupain. This image is from Wikimedia Commons.
North Terrace in Adelaide by Max Dupain. This image is from Wikimedia Commons.


From April 6 until May 12 2013, the Wanneroo Art Gallery will be hosting Max Dupain - On Assignment, a touring exhibition from the National Archives of Australia, which features many of Dupain's most iconic photographs, including images which have never been seen before. Amongst these are dramatic images from the canefields of northern Queensland, corporate and advertising shots which demonstrate his extraordinary composition, and eye-catching images which capture the Australian way of life during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

In a nutshell, this exhibition will provide the rare opportunity to see firsthand the works of one of Australia's foremost photographers of the twentieth century. Not only did Dupain poignantly portray a way of life which has now vanished, but he also played an instrumental role in introducing modernist ideas to Australia in the 1930s. Try not to miss this special exhibition during its sojourn at the Wanneroo Library and Cultural Centre.
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Why? Max Dupain's images are compositionally brilliant, and portray a bygone era of Australian life.
When: Tuesday 9 April to Sunday 12 May 2013 Open: Tuesday to Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 12pm-4pm (Closed Thursday 25 April for ANZAC Day)
Phone: 9405 5000
Where: Wanneroo Library and Cultural Centre Gallery, 3 Rocca Way, Wanneroo
Cost: Free
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