Australia 1911 – 1992
Onward and upward
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph Support: cream matt textured photographic paper
Puns are often found in Dupain’s pictures. His title for this image of a fire escape outside a high-rise building appears to align with the Modernist promise of progress through good design. However, Dupain’s characterisation of the modernist promise of social mobility and improvement through technology and good design is an ambivalent one. In this image, ascension and progress seem to lead nowhere; progress is simply an end in itself. Cotton also photographed a fire escape around this time, although she played the subject with a straighter bat: viewed from below and reflecting the viewpoint of one person looking out of a window, Cotton’s fire escape finds beauty in the geometric patterns created by the interplay of nature and the built environment, and of light and dark.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra