Max Dupain and the Photography of Australian Architecture

Volume 1
A thesis submitted for the award of the
Degree of Master of Applied Science (Research)
at Queensland University of Technology
by Adrian Boddy, B.Arch. (Melbourne)
July 1996
Chapter Title Page
Title 1
Statement 2
Perspectives 3
Dedication 5
Acknowledgements 6
Contents 8
Synopsis 9
Hypothesis 10
1 Architectural photography: an overview 11
2 The emergence of an Australian architectural photography: Max Dupain in context 23
3 Max Dupain: the person, the photographer 50
4 Max Dupain’s theory of architectural photography 67
5 Architectural photography: the Dupain style 85
6 Max Dupain: The photographer — architect link 117
7 Max Dupain among his peers 146
8 Max Dupain’s architectural photography: an evaluation 172
9 Conclusion 202
List of Illustrations 208
Bibliography 238


This thesis considers Max Dupain (1911-1992) and his contribution to the development of architectural photography in Australia.

Through his continuous and prolific output over six decades of professional photography Dupain greatly stimulated awareness of and interest in Australian architecture.

Before Dupain began specialising in the field, little consistent professional architectural photography had been practised in Australia. He and some of his close associates subsequently developed architectural photography as both a specialised branch of photography and — perhaps more significantly — as a necessary adjunct to architectural practice.

In achieving these dual accomplishments, Dupain and like-minded practitioners succeeded in elevating architectural photography to the status of a discipline in its own right. They also gave Australians generally a deeper understanding of the heritage represented by the nation’s built environment. At the same time, some of the photographic images he created became firmly fixed in the public imagination as historical icons within the development of a distinctive Australian tradition in the visual arts.

Within his chosen field Dupain was the dominant Australian figure of his time. He was instrumental in breaking the link with Pictorialism by bringing Modernist and Documentary perspectives to Australian architectural photography. He was an innovator in the earlier decades of his professional career, however, his photographic techniques and practice did not develop beyond that. By the end of the 1980s he had largely lost touch with the technology and techniques of contemporary practice.

Dupain’s reputation, which has continued growing since his death in 1992, therefore arises from reasons other than his photographic images alone. It reflects his accomplishment in raising his fellow citizens’ awareness of a worthwhile home-grown artistic tradition.


The reputation of Max Dupain (1911-1992) as the pioneer of Australian architectural photography continues to grow four years after his death. His widely publicised views about his chosen field are still commonly accepted as received wisdom. The quality and consistency of his output, the coherence of his professed beliefs, and the extent of his influence are the central concerns of this thesis.


Portrait of Max Dupain by Jill White

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