Day 259 of Colourisation Project – January 21
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
On 19 March 1932, the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened to the public. It was a massive engineering undertaking that transformed the city and became one of the world’s great landmarks. One man, Australian photographer, Henri Mallard was there to capture the momentous and historic occasion.
Mallard is best known for his documentation of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the evolution of this intricate and massive web of steel between the late 1920s and early 1930s. One of the few photographers permitted to scale its heights, his body of work conveys the modernism and innovation of this awe-inspiring engineering feat whilst documenting a pivotal moment in Australia’s history.
Shooting from precarious vantage points, sometimes a hundred meters above Sydney Harbour, his images depict the grand scale and magnitude of this iconic structure, set off by the human element involved in its creation. The Bridge came to be known as the “Iron Lung” because it provided work for many unemployed men at a time in history when the nation was in the grips of The Great Depression.
Renowned Australian modernist photographer, Max Dupain in his introduction to Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge / photographer: Henri Mallard; [Max Dupain and Howard Tanner. Melbourne : Sun Books in association with Australian Centre for Photography, 1976] notes the historical value of Mallard’s work;
“Here we have the documentary photograph, radical enough in its context, the social document, a large slice of Sydney’s evolution and an example to all of us who think of future generations in terms of historical narration.”
Mallard subscribed to the prevailing Pictorialist style of photography of the early twentieth century and worked mainly in bromoil, an early photographic process that was very popular with the Pictorialists because of the soft, paint-like qualities it produced in the printing.
Mallard was also a cinematographer and between 1930 and 1932, he produced dozens of reels of film footage of the construction of the bridge.
Mallard passed away on this day, 21 Jan 1967 in Sydney.
Today I leave you with a fascinating glimpse of life around Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay in the 1920s and 1930s as seen in this short 1933 film, Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, much of which was shot by Mallard and edited to celebrate its opening.