Glebe Island Bridge (ANZAC Bridge) Portfolio

The gap is closed on the segmented deck – c.1995

The building of the Glebe Island Bridge opened a fresh chapter in Moore’s 50 year career. Here was a unique opportunity to explore visually some of the subjects that he felt most passionate about: the aesthetics of man-made forms; the integrity of labour; the beauty of Sydney Harbour.

Over three years as the bridge rose above the waters of Johnstons Bay to a chorus of controversy, Moore documented the entire construction process. The eloquent photographs here are the result of his self-imposed task.

This collection of images is much more than a record of construction. It is a dramatic pictorial essay which celebrates human ingenuity and the builders of the bridge as much as the monument itself.

From these photographs a book was published (in 1996), titled To Build a Bridge. Please see the books page for more information.

Following is an extract by Moore from the book:

To build a bridge is a feat of daring.

Risk factors associated with erecting a precise steel and concrete span are ever present and there is a splendid bravado evident in the vault through space. Perhaps nowhere else in the field of engineering design can form and structure be so readily appreciated. In late twentieth-century bridges, an essential, functional reasoning allows no place for applied decoration or cosmetic overlay. Structural elements are left unclad, imparting an aesthetic purity which is a direct resolution of design problems coupled with a delicate balance of tensions.

Between 1933 and 1936 the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge was built at tragic cost as 23 workers lost their lives on the project. A 21-year-old photographer, Peter Stackpole, set himself the task of documenting the building of that bridge. He did it with consummate passion allied with an impressive ability to express the forms, graphic elements and workers’ dedication. The body of work produced a supreme statement of photography.

When I saw Stackpole’s pictures some years ago, my response was deep appreciation. The photographs were clear, sharp and vital, expressing the essence of the venture.

In 1975 I chanced upon the photographs Henri Mallard had made covering the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The negatives were passed on to me by Henri’s son, Paul Mallard, to be printed for an exhibition and a book. Again I was impressed by the photographer’s devotion to documenting an engineering wonder.

The photographs of both these bridges now have major historical significance. They speak of a time long gone and show, with perception and power, the work as it progressed. Neither photographer was content to make his coverage from ground level only.

Each sought out the riggers, dogmen, steelfixers, riveters, signalmen and painters high above the water to make images that celebrated the perilous work.

As foundation work for the Glebe Island Bridge began I remembered the pictures of Stackpole and Mallard. The construction of a bridge of such magnitude only happens once in a photographer’s lifetime and inevitably the photographs of the project will interest many people in years to come. With this in mind I decided to plan a three year period of work to concentrate on the venture.

The Roads and Traffic Authority and the major contractor, Baulderstone Hornibrook, were supportive of my project. Both agreed to allow me unrestricted (and unescorted) access to any part of the bridge during construction so that I could build my statement. It was important to be an independent observer – free of any restrictions imposed by commercial considerations or client brief.

When first visiting the site I felt like a new boy at school. I had met a few of the engineers briefly but the general workforce was totally unknown to me. In time the men accepted my presence as part of the operation and showed me every courtesy. Not wanting to interrupt their work by asking for any set-up pictures, I photographed discreetly as they went about their tasks. It was not long before I understood the pride and dedication they felt in their work: much of the coverage seeks to express this attitude.

To see the bridge grow from ground level to a soaring construction of concrete and cables against the backdrop of the city and the Harbour Bridge was a joy. I looked forward to rising before dawn to watch the early light wash the scene and sometimes hurried to Glebe Point or Rozelle when impressive storms swept through from the south-west.

Occasionally when standing on the roadway deck, it was possible to feel the life force of the structure. Surveyors told me that the apex of the towers moved as the sun angle changed and movements could be detected underfoot as concrete trucks rolled up to deposit their loads. After the two spans were connected and the road surface laid, the many support cables were adjusted and tensioned much as a musical instrument is tuned.

Since mid-1992 until the official opening of the roadway in December 1995, many thousands of frames have passed through my cameras. During the final year the project possessed me totally for I was conscious of the fact that to miss an important point of construction would leave a vacant hole in the fabric of the coverage. If my photographs assist in celebrating the expertise, dedication and responsibility of all involved, my time will have been well spent.

David Moore, McMahons Point 1996

“A Feat of Daring” – David Moore’s tribute to the ANZAC Bridge Exhibition.

Customs House Sydney, 31 October 2014 – 15 January 2015 – An exhibition of a selection of 26 photographs from the collection curated by Moore’s daughter Lisa Moore.

The Sydney Morning Herald reviewed the exhibition on 8 December 2014, click here to link to the article.

On 8 December 2014 the ABC 702’s Linda Mottram interviewed Lisa Moore. Play the sound file below to hear the interview.

For enquiries about these photographs please email Lisa Moore, or Josef Lebovic (Josef Lebovic Gallery).