David Moore’s broad range of subjects built a comprehensive documentary record of contemporary Australia during the 1950s and 1960s on his return from various assignments in America, Europe and Africa. Opened in 1915 and closed in 1999, BHP’s Newcastle steelworks employed more than 50 000 people, providing opportunities to belong to the workplace for generations of families from Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, European immigrants and, significantly, Aboriginal people who could walk ‘through the gates of BHP, could put their hands up and get work. This was at a time when they were roped off from picture theatres, they weren’t allowed in hotels, they couldn’t sit in the barber’s shop and get their hair cut.’ 1
Harold Cazneaux had been asked by BHP to photograph the steelworks in 1934–35 but was disappointed that he couldn’t photograph the human figure within the industrial landscape to achieve an atmospheric effect as the steelworks had been cleared, diminishing the possibility. Moore references the power of industry by juxtaposing the exterior of the steelworks as a background landscape with two boys on bicycles riding up the hill away from the belching pollution generated by the steelmaking. Riding into the light, framed by electricity poles, wires and the dense geometric structure of horizontal and triangular shapes, the boys appear comfortable in their surroundings – perhaps they are the next generation of steelworkers or are looking towards a different future. The clear portrayal of the two young figures moving under their own power humanises the image of round-the-clock mechanical production.
1. Belonging workshop, 2000, 'People - at work', Newcastle, New South Wales, www.belonging.org/people/atwork/steelworks.html. Accessed 24.06.2006
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
1963, printed later
gelatin silver photograph
21.4 x 30.6 cm image; 30.2 x 37.9 cm sheet
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.l. verso, pencil "...1963/ David Moore".
Not on display
© Lisa, Karen, Michael and Matthew Moore
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Ten years on, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Jan 1986–Jan 1986
David Moore 1927-2003 - Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Feb 2003–16 Mar 2003
Australian postwar photodocumentary, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Jun 2004–08 Aug 2004
Referenced in 3 publications
Natasha Bullock, Australian postwar photodocumentary, Sydney, 2004. no catalogue numbers
Ewen McDonald, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 82, 83 (illus.).
Rose Peel, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian postwar photo-documentary', pg.189-207, Sydney, 2007, 203 (illus.).