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Portrait of Thea Proctor



May Moore

New Zealand, Australia

1881 – 1931

Mina Moore

New Zealand, Australia

1882 – 1957

  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    gelatin silver photograph, brown tone
    18.5 x 10.0 cm image/sheet; 31.5 x 17.0 cm card
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Thea Waddell 1984
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    May Moore

    Works in the collection


    Artist information
    Mina Moore

    Works in the collection


  • About

    May and Mina Moore were born in New Zealand. May studied painting at Elam Art School in Auckland and Mina trained as a teacher. Mina visited Australia in 1907 and experienced the process of photography for the first time. Five years later she returned to Melbourne (after having run a studio in Wellington with May from 1908) and opened her own photography studio. Between 1911 and 1912 May and Mina worked together in Sydney and the portrait of Thea Proctor was probably taken in late 1912. After Mina’s move to Melbourne, May continued to run the Sydney studio.

    In keeping with the other earlier portraits in this chapter, the portrait of Thea Proctor is brown-toned, although the minimal studio background and the very direct gaze of the subject signals change. Jack Cato wrote of May and Mina that: ‘these enterprising young women were unable to afford the great studio premises filled with light from glass roofs and glass walls that were then the order of the day. By necessity they devised a method of portraiture by using the meagre light from an ordinary window in an ordinary room. It made their work so distinctive.’1 Despite the strong chiaroscuro, Proctor’s face is clear and her gaze direct. Her very upright pose, with her hand on her hip and no props to lean against, is that of a modern woman. Proctor’s dress was made by herself for the going-away party of her relative John Peter Russell in 1912. Other photographs from this shoot were published in ‘The Lone Hand’ in July 1913 where it was noted that ‘she is singularly free from feminine tremors concerning her own work’.2

    1. Cato J 1955, 'The story of the camera in Australia', Georgian House, Melbourne p 136
    2. Engledow S 2005, ‘The world of Thea Proctor’, 'The world of Thea Proctor', S Engledow, A Sayers & B Humphries, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra p 37

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

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 6 publications

Other works by May Moore

See all 5 works