Duncan (Mr Mac) - in focus

I started Joyce Bay because I wanted to share my grandfather’s images of Australia. While he was still alive we chatted a lot about the collection, what to do with it and of course I was curious as to when and where some of the photos were taken. My grandfather was also quite meticulous, keeping hand written registers of his images – all numbered and categorised. Super handy. So, I thought I knew a stack about the photos, our family history and his life. But delving deep into the collection over the last few years, it turns out I have so, so many more questions. Duncan passed away before I could ask them all so as Joyce Bay evolves and grows, I am on a bit of a quest to fill as many gaps as I can. With over 3,000 negatives, prints and slides in the collection I have my work cut out for me, but that is all part of the fun.
Some of the things I know so far
He came to Australia as a young boy from Scotland in the 1920s. Settling firstly just outside of Brisbane city where houses were scarce and the surrounding bushland both captivated and scared him. He talked about the shock of being swooped by a magpie for the first time, dodging goannas and skirting around snakes on the way to school. These early impressions of Australia - it’s vastness, wildness and its beauty strongly influenced his work.
He studied at the then Brisbane Technical College and went on to become a surveyor during World War Two and then a draftsmen at the Brisbane City Council. Because of his technical training he took a very structured approach to his photography work - how he set up his shots, developed negatives and how he determined what the final print would look like. There were no computers in those days (hard to compute today) so all of the tweaking and adjustments were done by hand in his darkroom in the laundry. His interest and technical knowledge of photography led him to lecture at photographic salons and write articles for the likes of Australasian Photo-Review.
While he was a bit frustrated that he didn’t have a looser style, I love his work and the way he so formally captured elements of our unruly landscape or the bustle of the city streets.
You can see more of Duncan's images in our online store.
photogrpahs, duncan mcdermant, joyce bay