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A Captured Moment

by Simon Elliott, 1 December 2001

The acquisition of David Moore's archive of portrait photographs for the National Portrait Gallery's collection.

Harry Seidler, Killara, Sydney, 1984 (printed 2000) David Moore
Harry Seidler, Killara, Sydney, 1984 (printed 2000) David Moore

In August, three individuals came together to secure for the National Portrait Gallery’s collection a suite of over one hundred images by one of Australia’s most significant photographers, David Moore. 

For over five generations, David Moore’s work has helped create a portrait of a nation.  Born in 1927, Moore began his career at the studio of renowned photographers, Russell Roberts and Max Dupain, before leaving Australia in 1951.  He was the first Australian photojournalist to work consistently for the international picture magazines during the formative 1950s.  For seven years he photographed on assignment in the U.K., Eurpoe, Scandinavia, Africa and the U.S.A., and his work was published in such journals as The Observer, Time-Life, Look and The New York Times. He was one of only two Australian photographers included in the Family of Man exhibition in New York in 1955.  He returned to Australia in the 1960s after working for Time-Life Books, National Geographic and a number of corporate clients.  He captured the creative talent of Australia across fields of the arts, literature, theatre and architecture.

The gift contains remarkable early David Moore images such as Surry Hills boy and Dawn Fraser and The migrants, to the present, with the gentle face of Nelson Mandela captured in Sydney 2000.  The collection formed the basis of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition David Moore: From Face to Face in 2000. 

Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Portrait Gallery stated that ‘he was indebted to Timothy Fairfax, Gordon Darling and David Moore for allowing the Gallery to acquire such a significant collection of one photographer’s work.  Mr Darling and Mr Fairfax gave $44,000 to the National Portrait Gallery to secure the key images and the balance was donated by the artist himself.  Without the generosity of the artist and the two donors it would not have been possible to secure such an important and impressive body of work for the collection.’

The National Portrait Gallery’s Founding Patron, Gordon Darling said, ‘I have always admired David Moore’s work and his ability to capture the moment with his photographs.  It was so right that his wonderful photograph of The migrants was featured at the opening night of the Sydney Olympics.

For me, it is a pleasure and a privilege to be associated with the acquisition of these stunning images by Australia’s most renowned photographer for the National Collection.’

The suite of photographs demonstrate David Moore’s skill as a portrait photographer and his love of the captured moment, accident and chance, combined with strong formal compositional devises.  The National Portrait Gallery has gathered five generations of David Moore’s productive life and the Gallery is arranging for the exhibition to travel so as to share this gift with the nation.

4 portraits

1Nelson Mandela, Sydney, 2000. 2Surry Hills boy 1, 1948 (printed 2000). 3Yvonne Audette, Vaucluse, Sydney, 1968 (printed 2000). All David Moore.

Related people

David Moore

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