Herbert Ponting was already an accomplished travel photographer when he was introduced to Captain Robert Scott in 1909. Scott immediately engaged him to join his team on their voyage to the Antarctic, the first official photographer ever to participate in a polar expedition. Scott wrote in his journal that "we shall have a cinematograph and photographic record that will be absolutely new in expeditionary work."
Ponting took a number of cameras with him, including two film cameras, and fitted out darkrooms aboard ship Terra Nova (lot 104) as well as in expedition headquarters on Cape Evans. He spent the Antarctic summer photographing as much as possible; during the winter months he developed his negatives, made contact prints, and gave slide lectures to the men. Aware that he had a duty to record the expedition, Ponting did so conscientiously, producing many portraits of the men at work as well as more formal character studies (such as his own Self Portrait, lot 106, Petty Officer Crean, lot 108 and "Uncle Bill" Wilson, lot 109). He also produced a number of fine wildlife studies including close-ups of the engagingly photogenic Adélie penguins, lot 129, gulls with their chicks, lot 199, and Weddell seals basking on the ice, lot 111. Ponting's emotional response to the bleak and deadly beauty of his surroundings can be seen most clearly in his landscapes. Studies such as Iceberg, lot 105, and The Ramparts of Mount Erebus, lot 107, move beyond the purely documentary to the sublime, the latter contrasting the formidable icy crags of the Berne Glacier with the tiny figure of a man below.
Between December 1910 and March 1912 (when Ponting returned to London), he produced around 2,000 glass-plate negatives - images that have helped sustain the memory of Scott's heroic and ill-fated expedition to the South Pole.