Portrait of Thea Proctor
New Zealand, Australia
1881 - 1931
New Zealand, Australia
1882 - 1957
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
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
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Sep 1986–23 Nov 1986
Critic's Choice, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Apr 1994–10 Jul 1994
Review: works by women from the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 08 Mar 1995–04 Jun 1995
The world of Thea Proctor (2005), National Portrait Gallery [Old Parliament House], Canberra, 08 Apr 2005–31 Jul 2005
Referenced in 6 publications
Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The photograph and portraiture', Sydney, 2007, 27 (illus).
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. cat.no. 170
Deborah Edwards, Daphne Wallace, Margo Neale, Victoria Lynn and Sandra Byron, Review: works by women from the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, The Photography Collection, Sydney, 1995, 16, 23, 16 (illus.).
Sarah Engledow', The world of Thea Proctor, 'The world of Thea Proctor', pg. 16-84, Canberra, 2005, 37 (colour illus.), 179.
Alexandra Joel, Parade: The story of fashion in Australia, 'Those Fabulous Flappers', pg. 77-97, Pymble, 1998, 66 (illus.).
Robert McFarlane, Critic's Choice, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers