Seriously, do NOT miss this incredibly moving exhibition of Antarctic photography

One of the best exhibitions I’ve seen in recent times, The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic Photography is on for just a few more weeks at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

Herbert Ponting, Grotto in an iceberg, 5 January 1911

The exhibition uses the photography of Herbert George Ponting and Frank Hurley (as well as pictures taken by Scott and his team after Ponting left their expedition) to bring the story of two attempts to conquer one of the least hospitable places on earth to life.

What led me to visiting the show in the first place was the title. The Heart of the Great Alone – a phrase which called to mind both the vast frozen wilderness and the human spirit and curiosity which mean we know anything about it. It also turned out to be an apt turn of phrase for encapsulating the fascinating and moving photography contained within the show.

From a technical perspective I loved the Ponting images like the one above and the ones by Frank Hurley of Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, slowly but surely being crushed by the ice. But from an emotional perspective, the ones taken by Scott and his team (after a few lessons with Ponting) were the most moving. The most heartbreaking was of Scott and his men upon arriving at the South Pole and realising that they had been beaten to their target by Amundsen. As David Hempleman-Adams points out in the audioguide: “You know, just looking at them, they definitely weren’t going to get home.”

It’s a wonderful and emotional exhibition and I thoroughly recommend a visit. Although, if you’re anything like me, you might need to pretend you have “something in your eye” or that your “allergies are acting up” at various points…

The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton and Antarctic Photography, until 15 April, The Queen’s Gallery

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