The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic Photography
Bringing together photography from both Scott’s South Pole expedition (1910–1913) and Shackleton’s later attempt to cross Antarctica on foot (1914–16), The Heart of the Great Alone is more than a collection of images – it is a narrative journey and an education to boot.
Herbert Ponting was not among the men who set out on the final push with Scott to the Pole, but his record of the months leading up to that departure, and his eye for capturing a scene, have produced some emotive and beautifully composed plates. Part of the appeal of these images, versus contemporary shots of the frozen continent, comes from the air of history and danger combined with the grain of the camera technique. The large photographs are accompanied by comprehensive text, which informs without becoming overbearing.
In contrast, Frank Hurley manages to deliver more than just a magnificent scene. Some of the most powerful shots of the exhibition depict the marooned ship Endurance and her fate as she is crushed by the oncoming winter. The smaller stature of Hurley’s prints does not lose out to Ponting’s larger pieces as they give a more immediate sense of the world they were travelling through, and eventually rescued from.
The exhibition is a beautiful and daunting portrayal of the age of polar exploration, combining art, science, geography and travelogue.
The Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 11 Apr