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An image of Migrants arriving in Sydney by David Moore

David Moore

(Australia 06 Apr 1927 – 23 Jan 2003)

Migrants arriving in Sydney
1966, printed later
Media category
Materials used
gelatin silver photograph

30.2 x 43.5 cm image; 35.7 x 47.0 cm sheet

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.centre verso, pencil "... 1966 David Moore".
Gift of the artist 1997
Accession number
© Lisa, Karen, Michael and Matthew Moore
Major exhibition gallery
Further information

In this evocative image Moore condenses the anticipation and apprehension of immigrants into a tight frame as they arrive in Australia to begin a new life. The generational mix suggests family reconnections or individual courage as each face displays a different emotion.

Moore’s first colour image ‘Faces mirroring their expectations of life in the land down under, passengers crowd the rail of the liner Galileo Galilei in Sydney Harbour ‘was published in ‘National Geographic’ in 1967.1 In that photograph the figures are positioned less formally and look cheerful. But it is this second image, probably taken seconds later, which Moore printed in black-and-white, that has become symbolic of national identity as it represents a time when Australia’s rapidly developing industrialised economy addressed its labour shortage through immigration. The strength of the horizontal composition of cropped figures underpinned by the ship’s rail is dramatised by the central figure raising her hand – an ambiguous gesture either reaching for a future or reconnecting with family. The complexity of the subject and the narrative the image implies ensured its public success, which resulted in a deconstruction of the original title, ‘European migrants’, by the passengers, four of whom it later emerged were Sydneysiders returning from holiday, alongside two migrants from Egypt and Lebanon.2 Unintentionally Moore’s iconic image has become an ‘historical fiction’, yet the passengers continue to represent an evolving Australian identity in relation to immigration.

1. Max Dupain and associates: Accessed 17.06.2006
2. Thomas D & Sayers A 2000, ‘From face to face: portraits by David Moore’, Chapter & Verse, Sydney

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

Bibliography (9)

Natasha Bullock, Australian postwar photodocumentary, Sydney, 2004. no catalogue numbers

Sandra Byron, David Moore: Australian Photographer Vol 1, McMahons Point, 1988, 123 (illus.).

Georgina Cole, Look, 'Australian photographs past and present: What they say about the people and the country', pg. 26-30, Newtown, Mar 2015, 30 (illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Australian Photography', pg. 198-207, Sydney, 1999, 205 (illus.).

John Lyons (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 06 Nov 1993, 12 (illus.).

John McPhee, Great collections, Sydney, 2008, 102 (colour illus.).

Gael Newton, Federation: Australian art and society 1901-2001, 'Migrants', pg. 189, Canberra, 2000, 188 (colour illus.), 189. not AGNSW print

Gael Newton, Shades of Light - Photography and Australia 1839-1988, Sydney, 1988, 129 (illus.).

Rose Peel, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian postwar photo-documentary', pg.189-207, Sydney, 2007, 194, 204 (illus.).

Exhibition history (6)

David Moore Retrospective 1940-1976., Australian Centre for Photography, Paddington, 08 Jun 1976–03 Jul 1976

David Moore A Survey., Christine Abrahams Gallery, Richmond, 28 Apr 1990–17 May 1990

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

Great collections (2009), Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat, 24 Jul 2009–30 Aug 2009

The photograph and Australia, 21 Mar 2015–08 Jun 2015

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