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Gas Works, Kerosene Bay Sydney

Date: c 1920
Overall: 235 × 292 mm
Display dimensions: 550 × 745 mm
Medium: gelatin silver photograph, cool tone gloss print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Anne Christoffersen, in memory of the artist
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00054631
Related Place:Balls Head Bay, Sydney Harbour,

User Terms

    The gas works at Kerosene Bay, now Balls Head Bay, Waverton, were built between 1913-17 by the North Shore Gas Company after it shifted its productive gas works from Neutral Bay to Balls Head Bay. The New South Wales government acquired land around Balls Head and Berry Island from the estate of David Berry, with great plans for industrial waterfont development in what was becoming an exclusive residential area. In response the Bay Road Progress Association was formed in 1911.

    The Sydney Coal Bunkering Company leased land on the western side of Balls Head and began building a coal loader in 1917, to act as a steamship bunkering station.

    As a noted pictorialist Harold Cazneaux was interested in the picturesque potential of capturing industrial Harbour views and here the gas works is shown in operation amidst calm waters and a dramatic sky. Also entitled A Sydney Waterside.

    SignificanceThis photograph of represents leading pictorialist Harold Cazneaux's interest in capturing the life and landscapes of Sydney Harbour in dramatic and impressionistic compositions.
    HistoryHarold Cazneaux was working first as an artist-retoucher at Hammer Studio in the 1890s (He was born in 1878, was only 13 when his mother died in 1892) and had a low opinion of the formulaic studio portraiture. He was inspired to pursue art photography in the 1890s in Adelaide after seeing local work by John Kauffman and imported examples of the new impressionistic art photography movement known as Pictorial Photography.

    He moved to Sydney in 1904 and obtaining his own camera started taking photographs around Sydney in a Pictorial style stressing atmosphere and also nostalgia for the old Sydney world of the Rocks and local manual workers and residents. A parallel focus on Old Sydney was a feature of print makers at the turn of the century.
    His first one man show in 1909 included many harbour side city images often in soft focus taken early morning and after work on his way home to North Sydney and on weekend ferry excursions ot Watsons Bay and Mosman etc..

    From his arrival in Sydney Cazneaux was struck by the contrasts of old and new in the ‘big smoke’ of Sydney especially the harbourside shipping but treated these as atmospheric romantic images in a style well established by late Victorian era printmakers and painters. He was commissioned to photograph BHP plants in NSW and South Australian for the Company’s 1935 Jubilee. The industrial images combined both pictorialist atmosphere with the drama and scale of modernist celebrations of the machine age.

    From as early as 1915 with his art -deco striped child study The Bamboo Blind, Cazneaux developed a hybrid Pictorialist –Modernist style incorporating clearer geometric lines and brighter sunshine. In his work for The Home magazine Cazneaux most often worked in a sun-lit style although still exhibiting more impressionistic works in the Pictorialist Salons. In the late 1920s and1930s his modern style was the equal of his younger contemporaries like Max Dupain but always retained a human interest element and perspective even rather than the colder machine age aesthetic and distorting angles favoured by modernists.
    From Gael Newton
    Related People
    Photographer: Harold Cazneaux

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