View Full Version : Discussing a Herbert Ponting photograph

Bill Hahn
09-27-2006, 08:19 PM
Herbert Ponting was the photographer on the Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1911. I am in awe at the work of these early photographers in awful conditions....if you google wisely, you'll see a picture of him operating an 8x10 view camera, wearing mittens (finneskos?), with a telephoto lens.

Even more amazing is that he took motion pictures there as well. Afterwards, he built up a talk based on his still pictures and his motion pictures. If you want to see it, see the video/dvd "90 degrees South".(I should add here, that Scott and 4 companions died on the march home from the pole, and Ponting's presentation honors them; if you want to read the details, see "The Last Place On Earth" by Roland Huntford. I also don't mean to slight Amundsen, for the APUG Norwegians.)

But here is documentary, "non-artistic" photography done in horrible conditions. And for roteague I should mention that Ponting wished he could have recorded the wonderful blues in that ice cave. (I hope I'm remembering this correctly - take pity, I'm an old man.)


Ray Heath
09-27-2006, 08:48 PM
yes Bill, truly amazing work by the early photographers

extremely adverse conditions with not only basic photographic gear but using only 'primitive' survival equipment

this image is also briliantly captured, amazing composition and perfect exposure, no zone/spot/matrix/blah blah bs

see also Frank Hurley and the Shackleton expeditions

09-27-2006, 09:00 PM

Great pic - I'll get to that in a moment.

Our good Norwegian apug'ers should have no problem with your accolade. Amudsden was a much better logistician and organizer. Scott's expedition is more "poignent" both because he died and because it was so screwed up that his surviving members endured a horrible ordeal trying to get back (many months on barren islands, if I recall?).

As to the photo:

It is spectacular and perhaps a bit daring?

Does the word "vagina" come to mind - inside looking out? :D

Bill Hahn
09-28-2006, 08:24 AM

Scott's expedition is more "poignent" both because he died and because it was so screwed up that his surviving members endured a horrible ordeal trying to get back (many months on barren islands, if I recall?).

That was Shackleton's expedition. Part of the crew waited on Elephant Island (doing that name from memory) while the other part left on a small boat to fetch help.

Bill Hahn
09-28-2006, 09:20 PM
George, to paraphase Freud, sometimes an ice cave is just an ice cave....:-)

Ray, I intended to mention Frank Hurley in the original post, and forgot...he also did incredible work.

For an even more poignant look at the English polar expeditions, see the book"Frozen History" by Josef and Katerina Hoflehner...

09-29-2006, 12:37 AM
...or just read South.

What fascinates me about early photographers is that so many basic tropes of photography were determined and have remained since those days. Modernism was a natural result and photography has remained ever after intrinsically "modern" in much of its imagery.

Steve Roberts
09-29-2006, 05:16 AM
I was born in Plymouth and lived for my first twenty four years a stone's throw from where Scott was born. Many of our local streets were (and still are) named after members of his last expedition and there are many buildings that carry his name - I work in the Scott Building of the University of Plymouth. When our local hospital opened its Postgrad Teaching Centre it chose a set of Ponting's prints to decorate the lobby - all very impressive enlargements of breath-taking quality, especially when one considers the materials and conditions he worked with.

A very good book is "With Scott to the Pole", which tells the story of the race for the first section and then reproduces the Ponting photos you'd expect and a wealth of others besides. The book I refer to is a large, thick, square format one, but another less ambitious volume exists with the same name (words only, if I remember rightly). I recently bought Ponting's descriptive work of the his exploits in cold places "The Great White South", but have yet to read it.

Our local museum has many items recovered from Scott's failed expedition, including his wooden skis, and wheels them out every five years or so for a small but fascinating exhibition. There is even a small packet of Huntley and Palmers biscuits that never got eaten and are undoubtedly well past their "Best Before" date by now!