Sydney Harbour Portfolio

Sydney Harbour from 16,000 feet – 1966

Moore’s enchantment with the harbour began when as a boy of 11 he opened his eyes to what lay before him at Neilson Park and beyond. He picked up the Coronet Box camera he had received as a gift and started recording: it was a unique vision he was eventually to share with the world.

Sydney Harbour was a constant source of discovery and delight during his lifetime. For more than 50 years Moore focused and re-focused his camera on the harbour; he delved deep, he revealed, he recorded – for history and for pleasure. He was always able to catch the light – at just the right moment.

Moore began his journeys around the harbour in a one-boy canoe, made from split cane and canvas. Not surprisingly there was a day when it didn’t quite make the crossing from Vaucluse to the northern side. Luckily its passenger survived to tell the harbour’s story through a comprehensive body of work.

This work was realised in a book on Sydney Harbour published in 1992 in conjunction with an exhibition at the State Library of NSW which broke attendance records at the time. People recognised themselves, their families and their lives over the decades that spanned, as Moore put it ‘a quarter of the period of European settlement’. Moore documented much change in that time – the transformation of Darling Harbour and Pyrmont, construction of the Opera House, the Anzac Bridge, the arrival of migrants from all over the world, and the departure of Australians on ocean liner odysseys.

Moore also captured the recreational aspect of the harbour in compositions of massed sails, boating parties, sportsmen and women. He caught the living quality of the place, achieving pictures with apparent effortlessness because Sydney was his city and he understood all its nuances. He said himself that ‘to grow up within a kilometre or two of Sydney Harbour is a particular privilege…the harbour…existed as a world of delight, adventure and mystery’.

Moore loved a free rein, and in fact, when shooting for the major shipping lines Columbus and P & O Nedlloyd, he enjoyed brief tastes of omnipotence. From a helicopter hovering above the harbour, he would issue instructions to the ship’s captain on the bridge below, moving mammoth vessels this way and that, just as he pleased until he got the perfect shot. It must have made a nice change from skippering a makeshift and unseaworthy canoe.

His recording of these harbour images is all the more important now as we see Sydney Harbour transformed by development – not always of the kind Moore would have enjoyed. He loved Sydney Harbour’s industrial activity – not just the visuals but the haunting sounds, for instance of ships’ fog horns. The working port was to him an integral part of the waterway’s natural beauty.

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