England & Europe Portfolio
Coronation crowd, Trafalgar Square, London – 1953
Leaving Sydney in 1952 for England Moore felt he was bound for a ‘magical land’. Arriving in London he was shocked by the leaden sky, the grime of centuries on the buildings, the food rationing and the bitter cold. Believing that he could make a few pounds as a freelance photographer he went out into the streets to find stories to shoot and sell to the British picture magazines such as Picture Post and Illustrated. He wandered the banks of the Thames, the streets of the East and West End. Over time he submitted several stories to Picture Post only to receive rejection slips.
In the early 1950s George Johnston headed the bureau for the Australian Sun newspaper and eventually he assigned Moore to cover various small stories for Pix and People magazines. Not satisfied, he yearned to be a successful photojournalist. It was Johnston who fired him up by saying ‘This town’s not too big. You can lick it if you put your mind to it’.
Moore had always admired and respected the photography in Life magazine and was spurred on to approach Gene Farmer, the bureau chief of Life in London. He described Farmer as ‘a magnetic man of portly build who walked with splayed feet like a duck in a farmyard’. Other than that he was ‘brusque, considerate and genuine.’
Farmer sent him away to demonstrate that he could shoot informal portraits, and – without ever having done this kind of work before – a week later he presented some shots to the response “They’re fine – we can use you.”
Finally he got his big break by suggesting he shoot the Coronation – but with a twist – he wanted to capture the everyday people at the event rather than the event itself. Farmer gave him a full day’s assignment and all the film he needed.
Moore then met Arnold Newman – a man he admired greatly – and heard that he needed an assistant on an assignment to cover the Houses of Parliament and the British Museum. He approached Newman who agreed to employ Moore for the next two or three months. During this time Moore learnt a great deal. ‘It was a time of instruction by example which could not have been bettered.’
Moore also loved shooting for The Observer where, aware that the pictures they used were sensitive and often lyrical, he was encouraged to use his imagination. ‘Being associated with The Observer was a rare privilege. The paper was free-thinking, adventurous and liberal, with a reputation for responsible, independent journalism perhaps unrivalled anywhere in the world. Because of this doors were opened in the highest places when The Observer wished to take pictures.’