Max DUPAIN, Backyard, Forster, New South Wales Enlarge 1 /1


Australia 1911 – 1992

Backyard, Forster, New South Wales 1940 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Dimensions: 30.5 h x 30.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1983
Accession No: NGA 83.1346

This highly formal view of the backyard of a hotel in the coastal town of Forster embodies Dupain’s sense of Australian modernist photography. The picture’s frontalism and overriding use of horizontals and verticals acknowledge that the camera faced its subject face-to-face and that the view has been consciously framed. But as the title of the photograph makes clear, it is also a record of a particular place. In his personal copy of G.H. Saxon Mills’ essay ‘Modern photography’, which greatly assisted Dupain to conceptualise his own sense of a contemporary photographic practice, Dupain highlighted and annotated with a question mark the following statement: ‘“modern” photography means photography whose aim is partly or wholly aesthetic, as opposed to photography which is merely documentary or representational.’ Dupain believed that both were possible within the same frame.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra