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Dupain, Maxwell Spencer (Max) (1911–1992)

Max Dupain, by Jill White, 1973

Max Dupain, by Jill White, 1973

National Library of Australia, 23235682

Max Dupain, whose photos became icons of the Australian way of life, has died aged 81.

His death three days ago was kept secret by friends and he was buried on Wednesday at a quiet ceremony in Sydney, NSW Art Gallery director Edmund Capon said.

Mr Capon described him as the father of modern photography in Australia and a man of great initiative and drive.

The Sunbaker, his image of a young man's water-sprayed head resting on crossed arms in the sand, is etched into Australia's visual memory.

The black and white photo was taken in 1937, but remains a current image — appearing most recently on the cover of journalist John Pilger's book The Secret Country.

Dupain had been ill for some time and had stopped working a few months ago.

Dupain was part of the new generation of modern photographers who rejected the romanticism of the pictorialist movement that dominated amateur photography in the 1930s and 1940s. He was more interested in industrial landscapes.

He exhibited in the NSW Photographic Society's exhibition of 1928, as a 17-year-old schoolboy, and joined a Sydney studio as an apprentice two years later. By the early 1930s his more abstract style was drawing criticism as "unpicturesque".

He set up his own studio in Bond Street, Sydney, in 1934, publishing soon after a series of photos from inner-city Pyrmont that focused on telegraph poles and car wheels rather than human elements.

Dupain joined the 1930s vogue for surrealism.

In 1938 he and 11 other artists formed the Contemporary Camera Groupe and held an exhibition in December of that year. Dupain showed surrealist portraits and nudes.

During World War II, Dupain served with the camouflage unit in New Guinea, transferring to the Department of Information in 1945 — a position that allowed him to develop his ideas about photo-documentary.

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'Dupain, Maxwell Spencer (Max) (1911–1992)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/dupain-maxwell-spencer-max-27243/text36682, accessed 16 September 2019.

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