silver gelatin photograph
a signed key photograph
35.5 x 45.5 cm
Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney
Private Collection, Sydney
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
Gael Newton, Silver and Grey – Fifty Years of Australian Photography 1900-1950, 1980. plate no: 90
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.
In 1951 David Moore left for London, and was the first Australian photojournalist to work consistently for the international picture magazines during their grand era of the 1950s. For seven years he photographed on assignment in the U.K., Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and the U.S.A., and his work was published in such journals as The Observer, Time–Life, Look and The New York Times. He was one of only two Australian photographers included in the Family of Man exhibition in New York in 1955. From 1958 he travelled the world for his New York agency, Black Star, working for Time-Life Books, National Geographic and corporate industrial clients. Since the 1970s he had been based in Sydney and his work reflected his views of Australia. His photographs are in many Australian collections including the Australian National Gallery, as well as the New York Museum of Modern Art, Le Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.