Max Dupain’s Sunbaker is Australia’s best known photograph and was printed by the artist in two versions. Although it was taken many years after the First World War, memories of bronzed Anzacs were still strong enough to give this image a nationalist resonance for contemporary viewers. Following the depletions of wartime, sunlight had a special meaning as an elemental force capable of promoting physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Dupain’s subject is a young man who lies ‘sun-slain’ on Culburra Beach in New South Wales, oblivious to anything but the heat on his wet back and the warmth of the sand below. The artist has positioned his camera almost at ground level in order to emphasise the sunbaker’s domination of his environment and his almost palpable connection with the replenishing forces of nature.