Last Chance – Herbert Ponting: Explorer and Photographer

Last Chance – Herbert Ponting: Explorer and Photographer

Herbert Ponting: Explorer and Photographer

10 June – 2 September 2023

Herbert Ponting is world-famous for his photographs and films of Antarctica, but he was also Southport’s ‘local explorer’.

After years of taking photographs in America, Japan, other parts of Asia and in Europe, Herbert Ponting (1870-1935) became and remains best-known for his work on Captain Scott’s Terra Nova expedition (1910-3). This exhibition looks at his life and work with photographs from Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, alongside artefacts and research carried out by biographer Anne Strathie.

Herbert Ponting was one of the most renowned photographers of his time. These photographs were taken as a record of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13, during which Captain Robert Falcon Scott and four of his companions perished on their return march from the South Pole. The Scott Polar Research Institute was founded in 1920 as a memorial to those who died and is the oldest interanion centre for polar research. It is an appropriate home for the negatives which have been saved for the nation and housed for prosperity.

The negatives give an unrivalled view of polar exploration and research in the early 20th century. Exploration was a keystone of the British Empire, and going to the Antarctic was on a parallel with visiting the moon today. Ponting himself thought the whole experience as one of the most thrilling events of his life. In the first chapter of his book ‘The Great White South’, he wrote:

Before going to the Far South with Captain Scott’s South Pole Expedition, my life – save for six years’ ranching and mining in Western America; a couple of voyages round the world; three years of travel in Japan; some months as was correspondent with Kuroki’s army in Manchuria during the war with Russia; and in the Philippines during the American war with Spain; and save too, for several years of in a score of other lands – has been completely uneventful.

Image Gallery

Herbert Ponting and Southport

Herbert Ponting was born in 1870 in Wiltshire. As his father’s banking career progressed, the Ponting’s moved to Carlisle. In 1844, after Francis Ponting became General Manager of The Preston Banking Company, the family relocated to Southport, where they lived on Park Road West, opposite
the gates to Hesketh Park.

Herbert Ponting completed his education at Preston Grammar and Wellington House schools, then joined the Liverpool branch of National Provincial Bank. While there, he took up photography as a hobby and purchased his first cameras, including an early Kodak hand-held roll film box camera. In 1890 he joined the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association – which the following year mounted a major international photographic exhibition at the city’s Walker Art Gallery.

In 1892, following a short spell working at the new Southport branch of Preston Banking Company (now HSBC, Lord Street), he boarded a Cunard trans- Atlantic liner at Liverpool’s Princes Docks and sailed to America.

After Ponting returned to Britain in 1907, he regularly visited his parents in their new home on Argyle Street, Southport. In 1916, following his Antarctic expedition, he gave a series of cinema-lectures at the town’s recently opened Palladium ‘cine-theatre’. (On 6 November 1313 Commander Evans, C.B, R.N. gave a talk on ‘Captain Scotts Expedition’ at Cambridge Hall, which is now The Atkinson.)

Ponting’s younger brother Francis, worked at Preston Banking Company’s Lord Street Branch from leaving school until retirement. He, his wife and Ponting’s parents are buried near each other in the graveyard of St Cuthbert’s church.

Exhibition Partner

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Posted on 1 September 2023 under Exhibition, General news

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