Search the Collection
Advanced Search

David Moore

Australian, 1927 - 2003

David Moore (1927-2003) was introduced to photography at an early age. On his eleventh birthday Moore was given a simple Coronet box camera, however it was a book of Edward Weston photographs, ‘California and the West’ given to him by his father, that cemented his love of photography and steered him toward a career in this field. Moore retained his much-loved and dog-eared copy of ‘California and the West’ throughout his life.

Born in Sydney in 1927, David Moore grew up in Vaucluse surrounded by the waters and activities of Sydney Harbour. He was educated at Geelong Grammar before joining the navy on his eighteenth birthday in 1945 where he went on to serve 18 months as an ordinary seaman on the destroyer HMAS BATAAN – an experience that fostered a fascination with the maritime world.

Moore returned to civilian life in 1946 and worked temporarily as a farmhand and in an architect’s office before he secured a position in the commercial photography studio of Russell Roberts in Sydney. In 1948 Moore began working at the studio of renown Australian photographer Max Dupain, whose influence is clear in Moore’s early work. It was during this time that Moore captured his iconic image ‘Redfern interior – 1949’ which shows an older woman and a toddler at the base of a bed in which lies a young woman with a newborn. The room is clearly one of poverty and the women’s faces are crossed with concern at the looming prospect of eviction. The photograph was used in several publications, and most significantly, later chosen for the 1955 exhibition ‘Family of Man’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition featured images from 68 countries, with Moore’s photograph the only entry from Australia.

The location of Max Dupain’s studio in Clarence Street provided Moore with a platform from which to view the activities and vessels of the Pyrmont docks. He was enthralled by the P&O liner HIMALAYA and returned to the docks repeatedly to photograph the bustle and hype that surrounded the vessel. He later said of these images of HIMALAYA that ‘I was 24 years old and I photographed that ship with the eye of a young lover.’

The period that Moore spent at Dupain’s commercial studio was clearly instructive and influential, however when offered a junior partnership in the business Moore declined in order to travel and gain some experience internationally. He left Australia in 1951 and voyaged on the liner ORONSAY to England. Over the next three decades Moore established a career internationally, photographing for major publications such as ‘Life’, ‘Sports Illustrated’ and ‘National Geographic’ and travelling to locations such as Canada, Antarctica and Kenya. During this time Moore published over a dozen books of photography and along with photographers such as Wesley Stacey and Laurie Le Guay was instrumental in setting up the Australian Centre for Photography. In 1977 one of his photographs was selected for inclusion aboard the spacecraft VOYAGER along with other forms of data about life on earth such as greetings in different languages, music from different cultures and a message from the US President Jimmy Carter, that will represent the planet on the off-chance the spacecraft encounters another civilisation.

From the 1970s Moore was based in Sydney and his work became more focussed on capturing Australian landscapes and people, in particular architecture. Throughout his long and respected career, Moore contributed invaluably to the growth and development of photography in Australia. His work is held in galleries throughout Australia and the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and the National Gallery in Canberra.

David Moore died aged 75 in early 2003 of cancer, leaving partner Toni McDowell and his four children.