May and Mina Moore photographed many famous Edwardians, including Thea Proctor, Lily Brayton and Adeline Genee. The ambitious sisters were noted for their dramatic portraits and their use of the Rembrandt effect - this was photographing portraits with a pencil of light on one side and the rest in shadow.
Born in New Zealand, the sisters were the daughters of a farmer and sawyer and his wife. May always wanted to study art, and she attended the Elam School of Art and Design in Auckland. She began selling pencil sketches, but she eventually set up a photography studio in Wellington.
Mina became a schoolteacher, but she started to like photography during a trip to Australia. She helped May in her studio in Wellington, and studied the art carefully.
Eventually, the sisters established studios in Sydney and Melbourne. They specialised in photographing people from the world of the theatre and artists. They also held theatrical soirees that were extremely popular. At first, the sisters couldn't afford a big light-filled studio with glass windows and walls, so they used the meagre light from ordinary windows, ad photographed people against a simple cloth background.
May was probably the most famous sister. Six feet tall and good-looking, she continued with her photography even after she married the dentist Henry Hammond Wilkes. He gave up his practice to help her in her studio.
Mina married William Tainsh, a company secretary and poet. The couple had two daughters, and Mina also continued to work after her marriage.