Cavern in an Iceberg

PONTING, Herbert George

PONTING, Herbert George Cavern in an Iceberg


Original green-tinted carbon print. 545 x 740mm. Flush mounted to oversized board, and signed and titled by Ponting beneath the print. In contemporary (with issue) plain oak frame, likely to be original. A fine example, with a couple of small printing artefacts touched up by hand, but remarkably bright and crisp and free from fading.

Probably the most iconic of all Ponting's photographs in its largest and most desirable format, one of an apparently small number mounted, signed and titled by Ponting. It differs from those sold in the Fine Art Society exhibition of Ponting's work in 1913, which were issued on a thick board without any border and with the FAS label on the reverse. This shows the photo mounted in a larger piece of thin card without the exhibition label to the reverse. The exhibition catalogue offer the option for photographs to be "mounted on plate paper", though the presence of the signature and inscription and the absence of the gallery label suggest it might not have been sold as part of the exhibition and was possibly issued for presentation. The copy of this image in the V&A collection is in the same format as this.
Ponting recalls finding the composition for the photograph, "A fringe of long icicles hung at the entrance of the grotto and passing under these I was in the most wonderful place imaginable. From the outside, the interior appeared quite white and colourless, but, once inside, it was a lovely symphony of blue and green." (The Great White South)
Ponting had fitted out a dark-room aboard the Terra Nova, and begun photographing on its journey south from New Zealand. He took two film-cameras with him and several still cameras, chiefly taking 7 x 5 inch glass plate negatives and developing them on ship, as in the present example. Once the ship had made it to Ross Island and 'the hut' was established on Cape Evans, Ponting set up a second dark-room where he would work, sleep and live for the remainder of the expedition.
"This iconic photograph shows Ponting at this best. It is one of the best photographs from any polar expedition. The ship is in the bay and the picture is taken from inside of an ice grotto. The photograph is beautifully composed, opening in the shape of a wave curling around the surfer... The first time I was this image I thought it was stunning. It is as significant an image as Neil Armstrong standing on the moon for the first time" - David Hempleman-Adams (The Heart of the Great Alone)

Stock ID: 45373


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