The beach is dominant in Australia’s national lexicon. It is a physical and cultural landscape, and seen as a place for a shared, universal experience.
The work of nine important Australian photographers working over the course of the past one hundred years reveals differing perspectives of the Australian beach and the swimmers and surfers who populate it.
The photographic lens has been a tool in constructing ideas about the beach, stretching back to late 19th century postcard images of an increasingly active pleasure ground. In these works the beach is shown in various guises, made up of moments, theatrical tableaux and sweeping coastal landscapes.
Pre-eminent in this imagery is the emblematic figure of Max Dupain’s Sunbaker which, with Anne Zahalka’s reworking of it, reveals a transforming and contested beach culture.
Slicing through all this image-making is the work of Michael Cook who explores the beach as a site of encounter and appropriation of identity, of Australia’s first peoples.
Max Dupain, Sunbaker, 1939, ANMM Collection
Anne Zahalka, The Sunbather #2, 1989, ANMM Collection
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