USyd through Dupain’s lens – 70 years on

The photographs that captured the University.

Max Dupain. Commemoration Day procession, 1951. Silver gelatin photograph. Image courtesy CCWM.

It can be comforting to imagine the student experience as a continuum. I am but one of many students to detour through the Quad for the view, to sit at Courtyard Cafe for hours between class, to peruse Honi instead of my readings. Generations of students have passed through the University — and it’s nice to have proof.

Deep in the Chau Chak Wing Museum archives rest photographs of the University of Sydney taken by Max Dupain in the 1950s — one of Australia’s most prolific and skilled photographers who examined the University through his unique lens. Dupain is recognised internationally for his depictions of ‘Australian life’, articulated through architectural photographs of Sydney as well as portraits taken at the beach. Even if you’re not familiar with his name, you likely recognise his famous photograph Sunbaker (1937).

Dupain’s photographs of USyd were taken out of his own initiative and interest, writing that he “had intended to create a book illustrating life in context at the University. Hundreds of exposures were made but the finance to publish was not forthcoming.” 

You can have a look through some of the highlights below to see these University lives in context, but I highly recommend going through the Chau Chak Wing Museum’s archives to have a closer look.

Max Dupain. Students reading in the Quadrangle, 1952. Silver gelatin photograph. Image courtesy CCWM.

Students sitting on benches along a verandah of the Quadrangle, reading the week 5 edition of 1952 Honi Soit with a front page story on Arts Society election dramas – some things never change! 
Max Dupain. Notice board, 1952. Silver gelatin photograph. Image courtesy CCWM.

Notice board with posters for Sydney University Anthropology Society – Film programmes, SRC revue; “Into the Woods” play, “Sensible Living Helps Prevent TB”; Italian Club folk dancing social.
Max Dupain. Dance in the Union Building, 1951. Silver gelatin photograph. Image courtesy CCWM.

A formal dance at the Refectory. View taken from above, looking down onto the dance floor.
Max Dupain. The Union Cloister, 1951. Silver gelatin photograph. Image courtesy CCWM.

Looking through an archway in the Holme Building. Three people talking in the courtyard section, one person seated on the verandah, in the Union Cloister. This courtyard is now home to Courtyard Cafe.
Max Dupain. Great Hall interior, 1951. Silver gelatin photograph. Image courtesy CCWM.

Staff members in academic dress through a door at the side of the stage in the Great Hall.