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May Moore

1881 – 1931

Annie May Moore (1881-1931) was born in New Zealand and studied at the Elam School of Art and Design in Auckland. From about the age of 23, May was working as a portrait artist in Auckland and exhibited pen and ink drawings at the New Zealand International Exhibition of 1907. By 1908, she was in Wellington where she and her younger sister, Minnie (known as Mina, 1882-1957) established their own photographic studio. The self-taught photographers soon established a reputation for stylish portraiture and became known for their preference for dramatic lighting and high-quality bromide papers. It is said that the sisters' distinctive style came partly from May's interest in the theatre and in photographing actors, performers and visual artists. Around 1910, May relocated to Sydney and worked from a space in the Bulletin building before opening her own studio on George Street the following year. Mina joined her in Sydney around this time and there they worked together for two years, the studio's portraits typically signed with the names of both sisters. Mina moved to Melbourne to manage the studio they opened there in 1913. May remained in Sydney, working from the George Street address and later from a studio on King Street. Mina married in 1916 and following the birth of her first child two years later sold the Melbourne business to photographer Ruth Hollick (1887-1977). May married in 1915 but did not have children. She continued to practice from the Sydney studio until about 1928. She died of cancer in 1931. Among her best known works are portraits of sitters such as Thea Proctor, Alfred Deakin, Arthur Streeton, Alfred Hill and Nellie Melba. Collections of her work are held by the State Library of Victoria, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the National Gallery of Australia.

Updated 2018