The artist to Antarctica Fellow in 2010, Laurence Aberhart enthralled the New Zealand Scott Base team as they watched him make his large format 8 x10 inch camera work in the extreme cold temperatures. In fact Shackleton’s photographers, Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley had used exactly the same sort of camera as Aberhart. This exhibition comprises all 23 photographs of Aberhart’s unique and insightful take on the remote sub-continent of Antarctica. Included are the twisted, convoluted and tortured ice formations of the Pressure Ridges, Mt Erebus, Cape Evans, White Island and Hut Point, Ross Island. Aberhart also brings his own unique insight to Shackelton’s Hut and Scott’s Terra Nova Hut. A great photograph will unlock private moments or histories. Aberhart’s images have a wonderful ability not just to document what is there or the past, but to draw us in and make us part of it. Hanging in a gallery space we look and we enter a private world all of our own. The responses and resonances these images evoke of this intriguing and captivating subcontinent are personal and for some, emotional. In an interview with Clare Crawford, New Zealand Stories, Art New Zealand, [i]Laurence Aberhart spoke about his experience photographing in Antarctica;
LA: I found out that your shutters don’t work under a certain temperature – like they don’t work slower than a quarter of a second, they just start to seize up with the cold. So you either had the choice of long, slow exposures, which wasn’t really possible in a land of blinding white, or fast exposures, which was relatively easy in a land of blinding white.
CC: What were you photographing down there ?
LA: I photographed the landscape such as it is, and that included some fantastic pressure ridges just off of Scott Base, where because of glacial and wind action the Ross Sea is being forced up against the land mass of Ross Island. About 100 metres off the shore line the ice that’s part of the sore is meeting the ice that’s pressing in from the sea, and it buckles and twists and constantly changes, so there are these wonderful twisted, convoluted, tortured ice formations that I spent some very enjoyable time with.
CC: And what about the human elements there ? – Shackleton’s and Scott’s huts?
LA: There were three huts – two of Scot’s and the Shackleton one. There are issues there – they’re well know and much photographed. I try and look for that which other people may not necessarily notice, and the things that are really well photographed, really well documented, I tend to leave alone unless I can present the in some sort of new light or new way of looking at them. Shackleton’s hut touched me because of its humaneness; Scott’s Terra Nova hut left me cold because of the authoritarianism that you could see in its layout.
CC: Did you feel you achieved all you wanted to in Antarctica or would you like to do more ?
LA: No I had never photographed in snow and ice, so it was a learning experience. Out on the pressure ridges I’d see a wonderful ice formation, but it would be away from me and I’d set up the camera and go “Ah, pity about all this snow in front of it”. Then back here you to make the print and you look at it and go wow! That’s what all that snow looked like. I should have done more of that! So it’s a big learning curve. There are big technical issues; it’s the land of no contrast, as opposed to New Zealand which is the land of very extreme contrast, as in lighting and things. So it would be wonderful to have another crack at it if ever possible.
Rebecca Hamid Director