Comment: The truth behind Max Dupain’s lost Sunbaker

An article appeared in the Fairfax press on March 1st 2014 under the by-line: A long-lost print has rewritten the story behind one of Australia’s most famous photographs.

Alas, the story was not quite a full representation of the facts!

Here’s the full story Fairfax complete with the inserted video: click here

The story from the article leads the reader to believe that this print was lost, that the album has just surfaced, that the library was pleasantly shocked to receive the album and to find the rare Sunbaker within the album.

The print referred to in the story is in fact rare. This is an alternate version to the photograph of the Sunbaker as has become popular. The rare one is at the top of this post, the more well-known one is below.

This rare image was published by Max Dupain in the monograph back in 1948.

Other copies of the print exist. One was seen in Max Dupain’s studio over three decades ago. It has not been seen since. The negative has not been found, so no more can be printed.

The album of the camping trip was not lost. It was well-known that Chris Vandyke originally had the album and that his family consequently had the album in their possession. It had been sighted in their possession.

The album has been viewed by photographic historians, and reference made to it several times in the last decades. It has been on sale more recently for a remarkable price. As far as I know, it did not sell.

This print in the album is not very large and is not an exhibition print.

There is a copy on sale – click here

and there’s a 2012 image of the book online:

click here for that 2012 article about the album.

The photographic community will be very happy that the album and the collection of prints have at last entered a public collection where it can now be viewed and accessed for research quite easily. The Mitchell Library has been fortunate to have received this.

The trouble with the story as in the article and the accompanying video is that it insinuates that the album and photograph have just surfaced and the library has been gobsmacked by its appearance. This is not an accurate representation of the facts as known by many people. The Max Dupain photograph has ended up as one of those ‘lost’ and ‘found’ publicity stunt stories.

The misrepresentation around this print and album is not the sort of reporting that one should expect from such a high profile and respected public institution.


Paul Costigan, 2 March 2014





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