James Francis Hurley

archive portrait photo

Frank Hurley © Scott Polar Institute, University of Cambridge

"If you can't find a way, make one."
Advice given to Frank Hurley by his father

"Hurley is a warrior with his camera and would go anywhere or do anything to get a picture."
Lionel Greenstreet, letter to his father

On board the Endurance was a talented Australian photographer named James Francis ('Frank') Hurley. Shackleton had partly financed the expedition through advance sales of photographic, film and story rights. This was to be Hurley's second trip to Antarctica, as he had previously documented an expedition led by the Australian explorer Douglas Mawson. The 1913 film that Hurley made about Mawson's journey had drawn him to Shackleton's attention.

By his shipmates, Hurley was considered "hard as nails", able to endure harsh conditions and willing to go to any length to obtain a shot. After the Endurance was abandoned, Hurley dove into the icy water to retrieve sealed canisters containing his glass plate photographic negatives. Relaxing his rule that only two pounds of gear be allowed for each man, Shackleton allowed Hurley to save his best images. Together, Shackleton and Hurley selected 120 negatives, destroying approximately 400 so that Hurley would not be tempted to retrieve them again. The chosen negatives survived ice, open seas and burial under the snow of a desolate island.

The photographs in this exhibition were made from Frank Hurley's glass plate negatives, film negatives and an album of prints he made while still aboard the Endurance.