Hartley, Martin. (4 of 7). Oral History of British Photography.

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  • Recording date

    2013-10-08, 2013-11-21, 2013-12-10

  • Recording locations

    The British Library

  • Interviewees

    Hartley, Martin, 1968- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Read, Shirley (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: Description of the expedition to recreate John Franklin’s 1845 Arctic expedition, Rebecca Harris’s interest in Jane Franklin and the mapping of the Arctic, with Mark Davey, Ralph Baker Cresswell, sponsored by American Express. Comments on the fog, the landscape, the team’s outfits, the difficulty of making interesting images, the bonding session before starting, eating seagull and description of the original expedition, spending a ‘spooky’ night in Starvation Cove. Comment on what attracts sponsors. [00.11.45] Description of the re-enactment of Shackleton’s [1914-1917] crossing of the Antarctic from pole to pole. Neil Laughton wanted to retrace the route from Elephant Island to South Georgia crossing in a replica of Shackleton’s 27 foot whaler, problem with the boat, mention of Trevor Potts who recreated the journey in 2004. [00.16.27] Description of Frank Hurley, Shackleton’s photographer, his work, editing when Endurance sank, their importance, where the photographs are, Hurley’s photographs of World War One and MH’s admiration. Comment on Caroline Alexander’s catalogue and book on Shackleton. [00.23.20] Comment about not knowing this work in college and not being encouraged to do historical research, MH’s love of a photograph by Franz Schensky and his attempt to buy it. His admiration for Gaylen Rowell, an adventure photographer who had worked for the National Geographic, seeing photographs including Herbert Ponting’s and Frank Hurley’s in mountaineering and travel books, their influence on MH. Comment that he is always looking for a photograph, its importance in his life and his use of his camera phone. An anecdote about a conversation with expedition photographers Michael Stranberg and Jaime Buchanan Dunlop and comments about how expedition photography affects MH’s life and motivation, how he sees his work. [00.40.37] A story about buying a Frank Hurley print, further comment on the ‘curse’ of being an expedition photographer and social pressures to live differently. Further comments about Ponting and Hurley and the differences between their work, how they were explorers rather than travellers and that Hurley set off just as World War One was breaking out, anecdote about playing with Herbert Ponting’s camera in the Scott Research Institute. [00.50.22] Description of events leading up to the publication of Face to Face: Polar Portraits and MH’s meeting with polar historian Dr Huw Lewis Jones at the Travellers Club in Piccadilly and their development of the idea. Discussion of the comparison between the images of explorers c 1900 and today, the desire to look heroic and the sponsorship of Shackleton’s expedition which is visible in the images, MH’s first book. Comments about the sponsorship, about who is included in the book and a description of photographing Borge Ousland on the day he moved out of his home in Oslo. [1.01.57] A description of how MH learned to photograph people, a job at Cotswold Outdoor, assisting friends who made portraits and working with corporate clients with a camera covered in scratches and insulating tape. [1.06.53] A comment about sponsorship, a description of the two ways that expeditions happen and a plan is developed, mention of Pen Hadow, of MH’s input as photographer in the early planning stages. Detailed comments about the role of sponsors and their need for images to be delivered almost in real time. Comments on the supposed and actual scientific value of expeditions with reference to Scott’s return with a large amount of scientific data including fossils which influenced the development of plate tectonics, Amundsen’s lack of interest in research and the rock samples found with Scott’s final expedition. Brief comment on one reason for corporate sponsorship. [01.16.00] Description of Ben Saunders current journey retracing Scott’s footsteps from the Antarctica coast to the South Pole and back, 1800 mile unsupported and reasons MH is not on that expedition. Comment on the risk for the sponsor and the daily transmission of the images and on how MH deals with sponsors’ requests, mention of Anne Daniels who does most of the cooking. Further comments on sending images back, sponsors’ expectations and the time it take to plan an expedition. [1.29.34] Discussion of MH’s physical training with either a training planner or a personal plan and an anecdote about a training exercise with Jon Stratford at the Royal Marines HQ at Lympstone, Devon. [1.32.38] Description of sending pictures back, the changes since MH started in 1993, how Edmund Hilary sent pictures back to the Times, that it has become essential and got easier and a comment on the fact that earlier travellers didn’t know whether they had the pictures or not till they got back. [1.36.38] Description of the first live transmission MH did on a unique expedition he did with Dan Haylock in 1999 on Mountt Kinabalu in Borneo and dealing with equipment they only received the day before they set off. [1.43.27 ] Mention of other photographers, MH the only polar one, Gordon Wiltse in the 1970s, Coy Rich, Ace Kavale, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk. Reflections on being a polar photographer, needing experience to do it, only a small demand, being away a lot, the necessity of falling in love with places and the usefulness of having a parallel life as a commercial photographer, comments about photographing expensive garden furniture, outdoor clothing, head shots or a PR company, a portrait he will shoot of Sean Conway who swam from John O Groats to Lands End, product and wedding photography which he sees as useful training for other documentary work and enjoys. Comments about the necessity to keep taking photographs and anticipating events. [1.58.59] A brief comment about [Robert] Capa and the discovery of a radio interview about the famous shot [Falling Soldier] which proves the importance of being ready. Further description of the photographic process, on being ready rather than preparing, frequency of late arrival of equipment, rehearsing the action beforehand, making photographs for sponsors first, what sponsors want, difficulty of finding good picture editors and not being a good editor of his own work. An anecdote about an expedition to Zanskar in northern India where MH used most of the film up before starting so he only had six frames a day to shoot for five weeks, rice and sheep, some of MH’s best photographs, a magazine selection he didn’t like and that subsequently one of the images which wasn’t used has won four international awards, MH’s thoughts about improving this situation and working back through his archive. [2.11.50] Comments on his pleasure in working with writers and a trip to the Dominican Republic in which the guide book was completely misleading. [2.14.17] Description of MH’s relationship with his cameras from 1993 on, learning to look after them, talking to his camera, the problems of working at the Poles where everything shrinks, oil gets thick, shutter speeds start to vary or the shutter jams and lenses won’t focus, film gets brittle and sprocket holes tear or the backing paper gets separated from the film. Comment that this doesn’t happen with digital and a description of his winterised brass Leica MP which was specially made for him and he can heat over the stove so he can change the film, warming the camera overnight, and the problem with snow colour at below 40 degrees. Battery problems and MH’s use of pockets. Using the Leica and a Weston meter which are completely electronic free as back up. Detailed list of what equipment and film he takes. Further description of how much he shoots in the Antarctic as compared with the Arctic, the times of year to work in each, the reasons for the difference and a comparison between them. [2.37.50] Comments about the role of photography on expedition, saving money by not taking a photographer results in dull photographs, explorers not using the cameras they take, on not being appreciated till after the expedition and how his contract makes his role clear. Two anecdotes about when he has and has not prioritised taking the photograph over helping in a crisis. Comments about people understanding his role, taking photographs during breaks, an example of a photograph of Charlie Payton which demonstrates why this works, forgetting to eat and trying to strike a balance between being part of a team and being outside it looking at it. [2.47.00] An anecdote about how emotional everyone gets, how he offended Anne Daniels and how they sorted it out and an anecdote about an expedition when people didn’t speak for ten days.

  • Description

    Life story interview with photographer Martin Hartley, 1968-

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