Tristan's Gallery

Max Dupain

Maxwell Spencer Dupain was born in Sydney, Australia on 4 April 1911.

The gift of a Box Brownie camera in 1924 made an immediate impact on Dupain’s imagination. He responded eagerly to the combination of machine, optics and the spontaneity of creation that photography provided. He commented that… ‘I latched onto photography immediately. The intrigue of producing a light picture the way we had to in the 1920’s and earlier was so fascinating that it has stayed with me all my life’.

While still at school he became a member of the Photographic Society of NSW where Arthur Smith was a great encourager and he met photography legend Harold Cazneaux. Although initially tutored in the craft of being a Pictorialist photographer Dupain didn’t practice this picturesque and stylistic form for long. He saw that a more imaginative result could be made in the outdoors from dramatic sunlight and surprising angles. The industrial age of machines and man made constructions were subject matter made for Dupain’s minds eye. Dupain absorbed the photographic revolution occurring in Europe and America and had the desire to push his own photography to greater heights of abstraction and subjective visionary. 

In 1938, Dupain was a founding member of the Contemporary Camera Groupe but it’s potential was stymied by the war. It held only one exhibition at the David Jones Gallery. Dupain was intensively involved in the photography of the Russian Ballet Troupe, The Ballet Ruse, also in 1938. His portraits, some taken on stage and some taken in the bush of Frenchs Forest, were a fascinating chapter in Australia’s history. The photographs reflect the importance such ballet artists had to the resident band of artists and photographers. To be closely in contact with the best in the world if only for a short time must have given a fillip to many including Dupain.

The advent of WWII in 1939 changed the atmosphere in Sydney from one of excitement to one of apprehension. Dupain married Olive Cotton in 1939 but they divorced a year or two afterwards. 

Dupain was honoured with an OBE in 1982 and in 1983 he was awarded life membership with The Royal Australian Institute of Architects.