Photographer Max Dupain and architect Harry Seidler were good mates, the arcs of their careers running in parallel. While Dupain is most famous for his Sunbaker photo, he made his money as an architecture photographer of considerable reputation.
But he was a reluctant overseas traveller, preferring to find inspiration in his own backyard, yet Dupain couldn’t resist Vienna-born Seidler’s 1978 request to join him in Paris to photograph the architect’s latest modernist work, the Australian Embassy, just 400 metres from the Eiffel Tower. It was only Dupain’s second trip outside Australia and his first to Europe.
An exhibition of 36 Dupain photographs – 21 from Paris and seen for the first time – is currently on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The images from donated to the Gallery by the late architect’s wife, Penelope Seidler, in 2012.
Max Dupain gifted these works to Seidler and in a handwritten note said:
I owe you so much. For nearly twenty five years I have dwelt on your philosophy of architecture. We register alike about clear thinking, logic of application, poetry of form etc etc. [sic] I have tremendous regard for architecture as a stabilising force in this turbulent society and I think my best work will ultimately show the significance of this by virtue of the photographed form thrown up by architecture and by engineering.
After the official job was done, Dupain went out to explore and photograph the city of light, from Napoleon’s statue on the balcony of Les Invalides, to historic settings such as the Grand Palais and Chantilly. The 21 images demonstrate Dupain’s love for the way light interacts with the objects it caresses.
Featured with the Paris ‘private’ series are 15 photographs of architectural and botanical forms taken in and around Sydney; from flowers in Dupain’s Castlecrag garden to the Opera House, covering 50 years of his career.
Max Dupain: the Paris ‘private’ series and other pictures is free at the Art Gallery of NSW until 14 September, 2014.
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