Naturalism – Ray Goulter

Max Dupain Picture1Sunbaker (National Gallery of Australia)

Style.  How do you define it? That excellent lexicon, the Macquarie Concise Dictionary (Edition 2), includes, at p998, a number of discrete definitions, but three that particularly apply to photography are:

1. A particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character”, “7. The features of a literary composition belonging to the form of expression other than the content”, and “9. A particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode or form of construction or execution in any art or work.”

So perhaps style can be summed up in two words: “Discernable individuality”.

There is one photographer who comes immediately to mind when I think of the naturalistic style of photography, and that is Max Dupain (Australia).

Dupain served with the RAAF in WW11 and this refined his view on photography without pretence. He is quoted as saying “If it’s not real it’s not worth photographing”. He shunned what he called the “cosmetic lie of fashion photography or advertising illustrations”. Dupain  also said “Modern photography must do more than entertain, it must incite thought and by its clear statements of actuality, cultivate a sympathetic understanding of men and women and the life they live and create”.

Perhaps Dupain’s naturalistic style was best captured in his image “Sunbaker”. It was a photograph of his friend Harold Savage lying on the sand at Culburra Beach on the south coast of NSW. Ignored for a number of years, it’s become his most recognisable image. “Meat Queue”, taken during the 1930’s depression era, is also a visually strong image. It’s clear that these images, taken before WW11, had already established in him the naturalistic style of photography that defined him.

More of his images can be seen at

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