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born 1882  - 1980

Norman Cathcart Deck was born in Sydney and was introduced to photography by his elder brother in 1894. A teacher at Sydney Grammar School gave Deck further instruction and by 1896 he became the youngest member ever of the Photographic Society of New South Wales. He began exhibiting around 1903 and by 1904 was a regular lecturer at society meetings. In 1905 Deck won a gold medal at the annual salon for a picture entitled “When Two Paths Meet”.

In 1906 Deck graduated in dentistry from Sydney University. He practised first in Cowra, New South Wales and then in Queensland, before returning in 1909 to share a practice in Sydney with his brother. The same year Deck took his camera on a bicycling trip around the South Island of New Zealand. He made a second trip in 1911.

As well as serving as an officer of the Photographic Society of New South Wales, Deck was also active in his own local Ashfield District Camera Club. In 1912 his work was sufficiently distinguished for his one-man show to be held at the photographic supply firm of Harrington’s, Sydney. The following year, after a visit to the Solomon Islands, Deck decided to join his brother and sister there in mission work.

Deck took up his own mission work in 1914 and served in the Islands through two world wars, until his retirement in 1948. Tropical conditions made photographing in the Islands difficult but Deck managed to continue, particularly during furloughs. On one visit home in 1921 the Sydney Camera Circle made him an honorary member in recognition of the quality of his work.

Deck’s style was inspired by the pictorialists at the turn of the century who worked in a manner derived from the tonal impressionism of Whistler. In particular they favoured ethereal and romantic images with delicate tonal gradation and decorative lines. Deck was one of the most faithful exponents of this style in Australia — even in retirement he produced images of Australia as an arcady of mist and luminous light.

Many of Deck’s prints were lost in the tropics and it was not until retirement that he was able to reprint his early work. The new prints differed in appearance, as many of the old printing papers had gone off the market. The negatives have since been donated to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and show how assured his composition was - even before the extensive print manipulations which went into the original prints.

above text based on Gaël Newton's Silver & Grey
Angus and Roberston, Australia 1980


a bend in the road

Upper Dailing Harbour

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