Harold Cazneaux was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1898. When he was a teenager, he moved with his family to Adelaide, where his photographer father Pierce became manager of Hammer & Co’s Rundle Street studio. After finishing school, Harold worked in the studio and attended night classes at the School of Design, Painting and Technical Arts.
Cazneaux moved to Sydney in 1904 and worked at the Freeman & Co Ltd studio while photographing the city in his spare time. He exhibited his work with the Photographic Society of New South Wales and in 1909 he held his own one-man show which was highly praised by critics.
Along with a group of friends, he founded the Sydney Camera Circle in 1916 and started to send examples of his work overseas, becoming known as a pioneer of the pictorial movement in Australia.
After leaving Freeman & Co in 1918, he was given regular work by artist and publisher Sydney Ure Smith. His use of ‘truly Australian sunshine effects’ caught the attention of many and sparked a new trend in local photography.
He exhibited for a number of years at the London Salon of Photography and also opened the first Australian Salon of Photography in 1926, although this was short-lived.
Cazneaux was gifted in both landscape and portrait photography. He published many books, wrote columns for a number of publications and produced a series of portraits of well-known artists, musicians and actors.
Cazneaux served as President of the Photographic Society of New South Wales and was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain in 1937.
He continued to work out of his own studio on Sydney’s North Shore, assisted by his wife and five daughters, until his death in 1953.