June 27, 2011
I've never really explored Frank Hurley's photographic work in Australia after 1946 as my impressions have been that it is rather boring and uninteresting. It's as if he is doing a commercial photography for a publisher on a book celebrating Australia.
Frank Hurley, The Causeway [Perth, Western Australia], NLA
The Australian work---eg., Australia: A Camera Study --- was made after 1946 when he began a series of long car journeys, preparing books on Australian subjects until his death in 1962. This body of work celebrates the achievements of white settlement, and Australia's place in the Empire. In his view, Australia was an outstanding example of successful colonisation.
Julian Thomas in Showman: The photography of Frank Hurley says that Hurley s view was that:
Hard work, ingenuity, and the vision of a few founding heroes had transformed Australia from 'a trackless wilderness' into a thriving, modern nation. Hurley's Australian work celebrated picturesque landscapes, industrial and agricultural productivity, and clean, prosperous cities...Australia was a land of progress, with a prosperous, secure future.
Thomas says that The Camera Study books, like the earlier films, concentrated on two aspects of Australia: its natural beauty and its industrial productivity. Hurley's aesthetic was perfectly suited to the task:
Wheat fields, waterfalls and beaches all looked good in bright sunshine, and a picturesque sky completed them. There was very little of the tension between composition and subject matter that appeared in his wartime photography. Good will was represented in the heavens; energetic activity on the ground. There were certain images that Hurley used to express this harmonious relationship again and again: the mass of sheep ambling through trees was one favourite scene, as was the wheat harvest in a wide, bright, shallow valley. The countenance divine shone forth upon those clouded hills.
Australia's national destiny was provided by God. Australia the natural setting for the new Anglo-Saxon Empire under the Southern Cross.