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The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott

2 Mar

Scott was aware of, and keenly interested in, technical developments in the early 1900s. He also understood the importance of marketing his second expedition. To help advertise the expedition he took the ‘Camera Artist’ Herbert George Ponting as part of the ‘Terra Nova’ crew. Ponting was considered to be one of the finest travel photographers of his time. When he was appointed he wrote that the expedition would allow him to turn the experiences he had gained into some permanent benefit for mankind.
Ponting taught Scott to use the cumbersome photographic equipment. Unsurprisingly Scott was fascinated by the technique. He made many false starts; on one occasion, having followed the check list carefully and taken photographs to no effect, he worked out that he had forgotten to remove the camera lens. But he developed into a talented photographer. He learnt how to ‘compose’ an image so that, for example, outlines of the tents were in pleasing harmony with the silhouettes of the background mountains, shapes moulded gracefully into each other. It was a technique that took time.
Ponting did not go across the Barrier and on towards the Pole. It was left to his students to faithfully record the last few months of Scott’s ill-fated expedition. Many of these images are in ‘The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott’ edited by Dr. David. M. Wilson.

Antarctic exhibition in the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

29 Nov

I love this exhibition. It shows the photographs of Frank Hurley and Herbert Ponting. The images are very different. Hurley’s were made under conditions of great stress when “Endurance” was caught in the ice and then when the crew were drifting on ice floes for well over a year. Ponting was a wonderful professional photographer; Hurley was not, but made a matchless record of the Endurance and her crew.

Both created memorable scenes. Ponting’s picture of the “Terra Nova” through the window of an iceberg imprints itself on the memory, whilst Hurley’s photograph of the brilliantly lit Endurance in the black Antarctic winter is an unforgettable image.

Ponting did a “mock-up” of the expedition members sitting round a Nansen cooker in a tent before they set off on their ill-fated journey to the South Pole. In this image “Taf” Evans, “Birdie” Bowers, Edward Wilson and Captain Scott smile optimistically at each other.