1927 – 2003
“It’s important that my photographs stand as a record and show what we were like in our time to others in the future.”  

            David Moore's photographic endeavours date back to 1938 when, at the age of eleven, he was given a Coronet box camera. During his schooldays he was rather more enthusiastic about taking pictures than about schoolwork.

            After a brief period in the Royal Australian Navy at the end of World War II, David pursued university studies towards a career in architecture. However he was soon to realise that his true vocation lay in photography.

            After commencing professional photography at Russell Roberts' studio in 1947 and later working with the respected master Max Dupain in Sydney, he travelled to London in 1951 to embark on a photojournalist career. During the next seven years he worked on assignment in the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and the USA. He was the first Australian photographer to work consistently for the international picture magazines during their grand era in the post-war decade of the 1950s. His work for journals like Life, The Observer, Look, and The New York Times secured his position in photojournalism.


            Returning to Sydney in 1958, David was determined to maintain his international activity whilst working from his home city. He was to spend the next two decades following this course with success and a steadily growing reputation.

            His coverage of Australia for Time-Life Books in 1963 resulted in a group of pictures which helped to redefine our image of the nation. They are juxtaposed against his abstraction of natural and man-made forms from the 1970s. In his later career he moved to a renewed appreciation of the Australian landscape.

            Since the 1980s, David worked primarily in Australia. His photographs are in the collections of the Australian National Gallery, the New York Museum of Modern Art, le Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

             “It is, above all, the consistent and widely acknowledged quality of Moore's work throughout his career which already has assured his place in the history of Australian photography,” says Sandra Byron, photographic historian and exhibition curator.

            In this film David talks candidly about his work, friends, colleagues and career. He is modestly aware of his place in Australian culture but also not afraid to discuss those photographs that, for one reason or another, weren't successful.    


            The film’s director, David Perry, says “My time of knowing David was all too short. He was recovering from treatment when we did the main interview, and there was always the hope that the cancer was in remission. I spent some time going through his photographs and proof sheets with him, but we never managed to organise a shoot where I could have filmed him at work, in his element.

            "For this reason I departed a bit from the structure of the series, where the photographer talks to you, the viewer, about their life and career. I never wanted to wheel someone in as the Voice of God, who would inform you that “David Moore was one of Australia’s greatest photographers…” I wanted you to decide that for yourself, based on what you saw and what you heard. Or not, as the case may be.

            "So I included a group of people who had been important at various pivotal stages of David’s life - Penelope Carr, David’s girlfriend and the subject of the underwater nude series; fellow-photographer David Potts, who first made the break to England and who shared a flat with David in London; Mary Turner, who with Treania Smith ran the Macquaire Galleries in Sydney in the ‘50s and who gave David the exhibition that put him on his feet when he returned to Sydney and Wes Stacey, with whom he set up the Australian Centre for Photography.

            “One thing he never did was to stop working. 'I love a project', he once told me with a twinkle in his eye. One series he would have loved to do was on Australian lighthouses, but alas he was gathered before that could be organised.”



The DVD of Words on Light : David Moore will be available from Artsdoc Australia.

For further details please click here.


DVD video    16:9    PAL    colour    stereo sound    76 minutes


Words on Light : David Moore credits


David's archive can be contacted here.


  For more information on the individual photographers, please click on the links below

Jeff Carter      Wolfgang Sievers      Robyn Stacey      Robert Walker