Supplied with a wide range of photographic apparatus and outfit by Kodak (Australasia) Ltd. for the expedition, all was lost when the Endurance was crushed in the Weddell Sea, except for a single V.P.K. (Vest Pocket Kodak), three spools of unexposed sheet film and one hundred and twenty of his four hundred exposed whole (6¾ x 8½in.) and half (4¾ x 6½in.) plate glass negatives, including 20 Paget colour transparencies, along with an album of photographs already developed. The remainder, his other Kodaks, Graflex and plate cameras were abandoned at Ocean Camp.
The precise fate of his salvaged original glass plate negatives is not fully documented. Negatives and film were handed over to Ernest Perris and the Imperial TransAntarctic Film Syndicate Ltd in London in 1916 for immediate publication, and were augmented by the negatives taken on Hurley's return trip to South Georgia in 1917. It is probable that these form the basis of a collection of Hurley's whole, half and quarter plate glass negatives now held by the Royal Geographical Society, London. The RGS collection is not though a complete collection of his Endurance glass plate negatives. Further original and copy glass plate negatives were retained by Hurley, remaining in his studio until his death, when the majority were given by his widow to the National Library of Australia, Canberra. These retained negatives would have been used by Hurley to print images for the 1961 Kodak 'Exhibition of Shackleton's Expedition' in Sydney, and the present lot includes a small portion of these negatives retained by his heirs, along with prints (in lot 114) developed by Hurley, mostly after 1945, and some as late as c.1961 for the Kodak exhibition.
The present lot includes a whole plate glass negative of one of Hurley's most celebrated images, the Endurance at night, lit up by magnesium flares. This plate is identical to the whole plate glass negative in the RGS collection, leaving it difficult to discern which, if either or even both, may be the original plate. The half plate glass negative of Hudson is not a duplicate of a plate in the RGS and is therefore a more certain rescue from the hold of the Endurance.
The problem in identifying original and copy negatives from the Endurance expedition is then compounded by Hurley's practise of working on the negatives, either to produce the expanded repertoire of images
required by the Imperial TransAntarctic Film Syndicate, or better to
present his own artistic ideology: 'To give the public more variety and to pad out the material depleted by the necessary destruction of large amounts during the expedition, Hurley produced a large number of composite photographs, inserting seals, clouds, whales, ice hummocks and the Endurance into such of remaining photographs that were suitable. As the expedition's fortune depended on Hurley's films, photographs and composites, this programme of manipulation can be understood. To modern eyes, what is inexcusable is Hurley's garnishing of photographs to emphasise the drama already captured on film...But such an attitude fails to see that Hurley's manipulated prints were perfect expressions of Edwardian ideology and his own view of humanity....Like most Imperialists - and there were few around who were not - Hurley showed by his life and his work that he was in tune with the prevailing ethos of his time.' (D.P. Millar, From Snowdrift to Shellfire..., Sydney, 1984, p.44).
For evidence of Hurley's 'manipulation' of negatives, see the heavily
painted whole glass plate negative ('Penguins on a shore') in lot 121, and compare the whole plate glass copy negative and sheet film copy
negative of The Marooned Party on Elephant Island in lot 113, along with his prints of the subject in lot 114.