south pole

University of Cambridge seeks cash to buy Captain Scott's Antarctic negatives

When Captain Scott ventured to the Antarctic on his ill-fated polar expedition in 1911, it wasn't just about racing Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. He was accompanied by a strong scientific team, and Herbert Ponting, the official expedition photographer. Ponting's images of the expedition are well-known, but he also tutored Captain Scott in the use of a camera and several other members of the team had cameras, too. The Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, which is a sub-department of the University, holds Herbert Ponting’s glass plate negatives and his presentation album from the same expedition, the prints and albums of all the other expedition members equipped with a camera, and the remaining prints of Scott's photographs in its archives. Together, they form the most comprehensive photographic record of the expedition held anywhere in the world.

What the Institute doesn't hold, however, are 113 'lost' negatives of Scott's images. These negatives record his early attempts at photography under Ponting's direction as well as those he took of the team on the Southern Journey. In order to secure the negatives for the archive, the University needs to raise a total of £275,000 before 25 March 2014, after which point they will be sold at auction.

Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911 “Ponies tethered on the ice beside a man-made ice wall. Sledges in background.” SPRI P2012/5/76

The university has already succeeded in raising £75,000, and is asking for donations to reach its £275,000 goal. Explorer Sir Ranulf Fiennes explains why the negatives are regarded as important for the archive: 'The negatives of Scott’s lost photographs are of major significance to the national heritage. Scott’s attainment of the South Pole and his subsequent death captured the public imagination on its discovery in 1913 and continues to exercise an extraordinary fascination. The negatives are a key component of the expedition’s material legacy as an object and as a collection in themselves.'

He speaks at greater length in this video:

Anyone able to make a donation can do so here.

Book Crossing meets photography - the Disposable Memory Project

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

I’ve found my favourite photography project of the week, almost certainly of the month, and given that we’re almost in November, probably of the year, too.

Take a bundle of disposable cameras, leave them places across the globe, ask people to snap a picture or two before passing on the camera, and see – quite literally when (or if) the film is developed – where the camera travelled. It’s the Disposable Memory Project.

Matthew Knight dreamed up the idea back in 2008, when he was standing in a dry cleaners somewhere in the scary metropolis that’s London and spotted a cheap single use camera for sale. (Don’t tell me that you’ve not had an astonishing idea in a most incongruous place.) If he set one free with a message on it, a unique URL to enable its progress to be tracked, and a return address so that the film can be developed and uploaded to the project’s website, what would happen? It was a slow art project that fused analogue and digital and rather piqued his fancy. (And now mine, too, for that matter.)

A few years on, over 350 cameras have been released into the wild and 30 have made it home to date. They’ve visited 70 different countries, including the South Pole, Everest’s Base Camp, and the Gambia, and travelled over 440,000 miles, which is to the moon and back. Speaking of the moon, they’re hoping to get a camera into space at some point in the near future, so if anyone can help them out there, let them know!

The Disposable Memory Project has 1600 members, all of whom have been brought together by a randomly distributed camera and the marvel that’s the Intergoogles. If you’d like to send your own camera off on its journey, buy a disposable camera, and then head over to the Disposable Memory Project website for the instructions to generate a unique URL and a camera-leaving kit.

How long do they anticipate the project continuing? For as long as they can fund it, and disposable cameras remain available for purchase. I hope that’s a while yet. It’s a damn cool project and I’m off to leave a camera somewhere.

You can see more of the project’s pictures on the website, and you can follow their cameras’ adventures on Twitter as @FoundACam, too!