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Australian art


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Migrants arriving in Sydney

1966, printed later


David Moore


06 Apr 1927 - 23 Jan 2003


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



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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

David Moore

Works in the collection


Shown in 6 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 10 publications


Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 105 (colour illus.).

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

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

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