awe of the awestruck
an interview with Caroline Alexander
a freelance writer with no background in photography or curatorship.
I was very much taken with Shackleton's story once reading "South."
Then I read everything I could put my hands on. I developed an obsessive
interest. I wrote "Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition" (about
the cat aboard Endurance, Mrs. Chippy). While doing that I went
through Hurley's photographs but I never put that much into it because
the photographs I saw from books weren't of good quality. What I
saw were clouded, rough work prints. I was completely dazzled when
I saw how many and how surreally good they were. I was amazed that
they had never been exhibited in any comprehensive way.
traveling blind. I approached the American Museum of Natural History.
Here I was, coming in with a grubby little pile of photographs,
blathering about a turn-of-the-century expedition. Mr. and Mrs.
Joseph Cullman 3rd agreed to put up the development money. I was
guest curator because I knew the work. I went on a ferocious research
trip, contacting family members. They were extremely helpful. Many
offered artifacts as they had hung onto a few odds and ends out
of pure sentiment.
photographs and some artifacts. The prints were made directly from
the glass negatives. It's the only exhibition of its kind. Major
art critics have been falling all over themselves over Hurley's
work. The photographs are the heart of the exhibition.
most interesting to watch was how this rather small, obscure show
took hold. We sat back and watched as this thing began to bubble
up-a genuine phenomenon, as opposed to marketing.
about an adventure disaster. As the world becomes more and more
accessible and controllable, there's a kind of wonderment that resists
all of that.
It was gentlemanly survival in desperate straits. There was no vitriolic
behavior. People have an opportunity to take a nostalgic, wistful
look over their shoulders at values long gone. As we leave one century
and set foot into another, we can look back and recognize the type
of values they operated with. These men steered their course by
his black and white images of the white desert are dazzling. He
had an eye for light, an eye that was flawless. He achieved a depth
of field into infinity, yet close up, you can see the grains of
crystal ice. This landscape was extremely difficult to photograph.
was as tough as nails, an extremely hardy specimen who liked to
see himself as a "tough Aussie" among a bunch of soft