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New Exhibition Charts Acclaimed Photographer’s Wartime Service

A new Lake Macquarie City Council exhibition explores the little-known wartime career of one of Australia’s most celebrated photographers.


Max Dupain is perhaps most famous for his documentary-style images of Australian life from the 1930s-1960s, but his years in the RAAF, first at the Rathmines seaplane base and later in Papua New Guinea, proved hugely influential to his career.

The exhibition, titled Max Dupain: Art and War, charts this period in the photographer’s life through more than 50 of his images.

Lifelong Learning and Engagement Coordinator Jess Dowdell said the images portrayed the Rathmines Catalina base during the peak of WWII when Dupain photographed servicemen in between his shifts designing camouflage for buildings and equipment.

“One of the most striking things about these photographs is the way they depict everyday military activities without being forced or posed,” she said.

“These images have rarely been seen by the general public and never exhibited locally, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to peek back in time to another era.”

Images in the exhibition show Catalinas afloat on Lake Macquarie, under repair by RAAF mechanics and being towed from the water onto the giant concrete aprons that still survive today.

One shows acclaimed artist Sir William Dobell, who also worked at the RAAF base painting camouflage during the war.

Others are taken from his service in Papua New Guinea, showing RAAF operations and the lives of local tribespeople.

The Rathmines RAAF base was the largest seaplane base on Australia’s east coast during WWII, providing vital coastal protection during a period when the nation was under constant threat of invasion and bombardment.

The new exhibition opens at 10am Friday 26 March at Rathmines Theatre and will be on display Friday to Sunday 10am–2pm until 28 November.

Entry is by gold coin donation.


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