When working as an assistant for Max Dupain from 1948 to 1951 David Moore walked the depressed inner-city areas of Sydney after hours taking still photographs in the style of the documentary movement. The informal structure of 'Redfern interior' was taken when the young David Moore was mistaken for a press photographer and asked by a neighbour to take a photograph of the condemned house and the squalid conditions in which the family were living. The cramped space, despair and poverty passing through three generations to a newborn baby, has no joy and little hope for change. The monumental matriarch, leaning on the bed, withdraws connection from the family, seemingly self-absorbed as she contemplates the bleak environment. As the mother breastfeeds the women do not appear to be conscious of a young photographer in the room, probably doubtful he could make a difference. Each face carries equal weight, their despondency palpable. The image is roughly divided into white (the bed) and black (despair) which can be read as metaphorically representing life and death.
Moore discussed destroying the negative with Dupain because, as he was not a press photographer, there was no possibility it could be published. Instead, and with a social conscience, Moore sent a copy on behalf of the tenants to the council responsible for eviction but received no reply. ‘Redfern interior’ was included in ‘The family of man’, the international exhibition assembled by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1955, which arrived in Australia in 1959.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
1949, printed later
gelatin silver photograph, vinatge
21.8 x 30.4 cm image/sheet; 40.2 x 50.3 cm board
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.c. verso board, pencil "...1949/ David Moore".
Not on display
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Seeing is believing - the art in photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Dec 1985–19 Jan 1986
Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Mar 1993–09 May 1993
We Are Family, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Oct 1994–20 Nov 1994
David Moore 1927-2003 - Photographs from the Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Feb 2003–16 Mar 2003
The photograph and Australia:
Referenced in 3 publications
Gael Newton, Silver and Grey - Fifty Years of Australian Photography 1900-1950, 1980. plate no: 90
Rose Peel, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian postwar photo-documentary', pg.189-207, Sydney, 2007, 190, 198 (illus.).
Ursula Prunster, Seeing is believing: the art in photography, Sydney, 1985. catalogue no: 30