David MOORE, Lifesavers at Manly Enlarge 1 /1


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1927 – 2003

Lifesavers at Manly 1959 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Primary Insc: 116,19,74
Dimensions: printed image 30.2 h x 60.4 w cm sheet 30.2 h x 60.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of David Moore 1983
Accession No: NGA 83.3554
Image rights: © Lisa, Michael, Matthew and Joshua Moore

In 1951, David Moore worked his passage to London on board the Oronsay as a shipboard photographer. He spent seven years overseas, fulfilling his ambition to become a photojournalist for the major picture magazines. While Moore was overseas, he adopted the small 35mm reflex camera instead of the older large format studio and press cameras. The experience was liberating and, with his training in shooting for the ‘decisive moment’ as needed in photojournalism, the 35mm camera allowed him to capture and express fluidity.

On his return to Australia in 1958, Moore brought new skills and a new eye to his Australian images. Where his 1940s work had a framework of strong geometric shapes and clearly defined spaces, the 1950s images show sensuous free flowing lines, arcs and arabesques which interweave and lift off from fixed base lines on the ground.

Moore’s picture of the lifesavers at a surf carnival at Manly in 1959 was made for Ambassador magazine for an assignment on New South Wales. There is something quite sensuous in the way the men feed out the lines in unison. The image has an introspective, almost cinematic quality, as if the anonymous figures are moving in slow motion with all the grace of a shoal of fish. The feel of the image is quite different from the striding, bulky bronzed lifesavers of the 1930s tourist posters, or the protective heroes of the ‘swim between the flags’ campaigns.

Gael Newton

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002