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Cosier Thesis 1980   |   articles   |   public collections   |   selection of photographs 




John Cyril Cato was born in Launceston and was inspired by the career of his cousin, John Watt Beattie, a renowned topographical photographer. Cato joined Beattie’s studio in 1909 and was responsible for adding a quality portrait service to the studio.

Cato had already studied art under Lucien Dechaineux and portrait photography under Percy Whitelaw and John Andrew. Pictorialism had begun to create a taste for more imaginative portraiture than the clichéd 19th century studio study inevitably set against fake balustrades. Cato went on to contribute some of the best portrait work in the pictorial era.

From 1909–13 Cato worked in London, firstly for fellow Australian H. Walter Barnett, who ran the leading society portrait studio, and then with Claude Harris who specialised in theatrical personalities. Cato worked next as a freelance photographer in the theatrical world, aided by patronage from Nellie Melba.

In 1913 Cato moved to South Africa to explore the scenic and business potential of a new country. He worked as an expedition photographer for Professor Cory of Grahamstown University before enlisting for war service in South Africa. After the war he returned to Tasmania, setting up a studio in Hobart in 1920.

In 1927 Cato moved his studio and family to Melbourne where he was again assisted by patronage from Nellie Melba. His studio was a leader in social portraiture until 1947 when he retired to concentrate on writing. Cato was encouraged by the success of his autobiography I Can Take It, published in 1947, and went on to produce The Story of the Camera in Australia in 1955. To date this book has served as the only comprehensive history of Australian photography yet published. One of the strengths of the book is Cato’s vivid pen portraits of the many photographers he met in his long career.

Cato was not a regular exhibitor in pictorial salons although his style had developed from that movement. Nor did he write or lecture prior to retirement. He preferred to arrange one-man shows of his work, presenting a particular theme, such as ‘local characters’’.

above text based on Gael Newton's Silver & Grey

More on Jack Cato:

Cosier Thesis 1980   |   articles   |   public collections   |   selection of photographs 


Cosier Thesis 1980   |   articles   |   public collections   |   selection of photographs 



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