The work of photographer Max Dupain (1911-1992) dominates Australia's photographic history. His "Sunbaker" (1937) is probably the most widely recognised Australian photograph. Its iconic status is due in no small part to its representation of an Australian ‘type' – the bronzed, muscular, white male who appears at one with sun, sand and surf. The photograph was taken by Dupain on a camping expedition with friends to the South Coast of New South Wales and shows Dupain's friend - Englishman Harold Salvage - on the sand at Culburra Beach, near Jervis Bay.
Since making its contemporary debut as the poster image for Dupain's first retrospective exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney in 1975, the image has become part of the consciousness of Australians – symbolising health, vitality, a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of sport and relaxation.
"Sunbaker" is also an important modernist icon that demonstrates the characteristics of the ‘New Photography'. Emanating from Europe in the 1920s this style of photography focused on unusual angles, perspectives and sharp contrasting tones – qualities which are inherent in "Sunbaker". For this image Dupain used a low camera angle and exaggerated the compositional elements of the photograph with the sand filling the foreground and the foreshortened monumental figure of the sunbaker's torso being transformed into a mountain-like outcrop set against the horizon.
"Sunbaker" was among the first photographic purchases made by the Waverley City Council Art Committee upon its establishment in 1980. It is one of 27 photographs by Max Dupain held in MGA's collection. Other significant examples of this photographer's work in the collection include "Bondi" (1939), "The Meat Queue" (1946) and "At Newport" (1952).