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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Photographer Profile ~ "The Mad Photographer" Frank Hurley

In 1917 James Francis Hurley (1885-1962) became the first official photographer to the Australian Imperial Forces. When he arrived at the Western Front his rank was honorary captain, but the troops, seeing how he took risks to get his pictures, dubbed him “the mad photographer”.

"To get war pictures of striking interest and sensation is like attempting the impossible," Hurley wrote in September 1917. 

Hurley was an outstanding photographer. He had already earned a reputation as an tough adventurer, when he took part in the Endurance Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Lionel Greenstreet, First Officer of the Endurance, said of him: “Hurley is a warrior with his camera. He would go anywhere or do anything to get a picture.” He was renowned in his native Australia, Frank Hurley’s photography should be more widely known. A brilliant technician, extraordinarily brave and physically hardy (he plunged into Antarctic waters to retrieve negatives lost to the sea during his trip with Shackleton)

Hurley was a strong defender of pictorialism – the idea that photographs should express ideas, tell stories and excite emotions in much the same way as paintings – and finally he began to manipulate war pictures. Some of his most famous battle scenes are in fact composites of several negatives, which has affected his standing as a documentary photographer.  Hurley’s frustration at risking his life continually to get pictures that did not fully represent the scenes that he saw led him to the highly controversial practice of montaging his photographs to create composite battle scenes.

Frank Hurley

Frank Hurley, The Battle of the Menin Road, 1917/18

Frank Hurley

Hurley in the rigging photographing the crew.

The brave crew of the ship Endurance

 Midwinter’s day meal celebrating the return of the sun (June 22, 1915)

Hurley high in the rigging recording images (January 6, 1915)

 Endurance forced out of the ice flow under extreme pressure (October 18, 1915)

Dogs watching Endurance break up (November 1, 1915)

Surveying the last remnants of Endurance (November 8, 1915)

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