06 February 2016

"Hurley, the irrepressible"

"...Hurley, the irrepressible ... perched like a dicky bird on the top sail
yard arm is taking a colour photo of ship and ice..."
If polar exploration is your thing - and even if it's not - the current exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington is a must-see.

It consists of the photos taken by Shackleton's expedition photographer, Frank Hurley, who had tough decisions to make when the expedition's ship, the Endurance, broke up in ice as they were forced to over-winter. Most of his plates (this was 1915) had to be left behind.

What happened next is well known: the men set up camp, hoping to hold out till the ice broke up; eventually some set off across 750 miles of sea in a small boat to get help, and did manage to rescue the others.

The story is told, and imaged, so vividly in the exhibition, at the heart of which are more than 90 of Hurley's images, newly digitised from the originals, which have been stored at the RGS for more than 80 years. It also includes "precious survivors", personal artefacts that returned with the men.

"As one of the first truly modern documentary photographers and film-makers, Australian born Hurley hoped to have his images seen at as large scale size as possible. 100 years later, this intention will be honoured with giant dimension prints, some over 2 metres in width and height, at the heart of the exhibition."

If you can't get to the RGS, the online exhibition is accessible here.


Kathleen Loomis said...

Oh my -- I have been a Shackleton fan since 1980, when I found a copy of "Endurance" on my brother-in-law's bookshelf during a long and boring visit. I fell in love with the book, and with the concept of Antarctica, and have seriously acted out on both those affairs. I've re-read the book maybe four times and buy it in quantity so I can give it to other people. And of course I got to go to Antarctica, and brought home a lot more pictures than Frank Hurley did. I'll check out the online pictures!!

M Dow said...

Incredible photographs and what a feat for them to survive for so long on such a disastrous expedition! Was great to see the photographs and text from the scientists and crews. I ended up buying the exhibition book.