An image of Migrants arriving in Sydney

David Moore

(Australia 06 Apr 1927 – 23 Jan 2003)

Migrants arriving in Sydney

Location
Not on display
Further information

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: www.mdaa.com.au/people/moore-05.php. 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

Year
1966, printed later
Media
Photograph
Medium
gelatin silver photograph
Dimensions
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".
Credit
Gift of the artist 1997
Accession number
429.1997
Copyright
© Lisa, Karen, Michael and Matthew Moore