Writing with light: a photographer's vision: Frank Hurley and the 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Faculty of Regional and Professional Studies
ECU South West Research Centre
Frank Hurley’s photography from the 1911–1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) has been largely overlooked as a body of work in isolation, too often apprenticed to images he created during Ernest Shackleton’s 1914–1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic “Endurance” Expedition. It was Hurley’s first Antarctic experience with the AAE, living and working at Commonwealth Bay in unprecedented wind conditions, and sledging 500 km to and from the vicinity of the South Magnetic Pole, that forged his abiding visual narrative of man’s struggle against nature. The images Frank Hurley captured during the AAE and the “Endurance” Expedition “have so colonised the popular imagination, that they are now the primary means by which the expeditions are visualised”. This paper explores Hurley’s photographic vision, informed by Pictorial aesthetics and embraced through his first experience of Antarctica as official photographer and cinematographer to the AAE; it positions Hurley’s preoccupation with depictions of the Hero as a manifestation of Imperial identity and pride; it analyses the embellishments of Hurley’s iconic AAE blizzard photograph, and touches upon the seeming contradiction of his most contentious darkroom practice – creating composites from two or more images – in which he privileged the Modernist notion of sensate truth above the factual accuracy intrinsic to traditional photojournalism and documentary making.