Hartley, Martin. (5 of 7). Oral History of British Photography.
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2013-10-08, 2013-11-21, 2013-12-10
The British Library
Hartley, Martin, 1968- (speaker, male)
Read, Shirley (speaker, female)
Part 5: Comments on the effects and problems of being confined with a small group of people on expeditions, having little time to talk and little input from the outside world. 00.08.00 MH’s preoccupation with getting good photographs, problems with the way some people ski and the pleasure of photographing Rosie Stancer who is tiny but very strong. [00.09.35]. A discussion of gender issues on expeditions, MH’s attempt to offer support for women and his role in hosting a photography workshop for the Royal Geographic Society, Explore, his discussion with Shane Winser and inclusion on panel of adventure photographer Caroline Cuif, Joanna Ede who works for Survival International and travel photographer Ahsan Abbas. [00.12.00] Mention of his close friend Cat Vinton, comments on his commitment to mixed expeditions and the difference his role as an observer makes to his masculine role, the competition to be the first woman to reach the north pole solo, physiological and emotional differences, the problems of all women expeditions, the north Norwegian women explorers and the predominance of male explorers. [00.17.43] Description of how MH sees his photographic job, a preference for documentation rather than constructing images, using people in context and in icescapes, portraits and action shots. His preference for telling a real story; his sponsors’ need for heroic images and romantic clichés, the legacy of the original explorers. Comment on the differences between American and British visual culture and advertising. [00.27.22] Comments on his aim to take an ‘honest’ photograph while being respectful to people and making them look good in portraits rather than vulnerable, a photograph of himself looking terrible, taking the hardest shot. His desire to take the quintessential shot which tells the story of the whole expedition. [00.32.12] A comment that he tries do the same thing with weddings and two examples from mountains and a wedding in Cape Town. [00.36.22] Description of the difficulties of showing scale and showing climate change and his irritation at the inaccurate clichés which are used in place of more accurate images. Comments on the thickness of ice and the ease of travelling on a cruise ship to the north pole, the beauty of arctic light in spring and the frustration of the costs of taking photos when the light at its most beautiful. [00.45.07] Description of the problems and costs for scientists, their resultant dependence on satellite data, comments on the issue of measuring the thickness of the ice and his pleasure and satisfaction in gathering data for scientists on the Catlin Arctic survey in 2009/10. Mention of tough women scientists, Dr Helen Findlay, Ceri Lewis and Kristina Brown on a sea ice base and that most of the data collection is static because scientist don’t do long transepts and they haven’t got the skills to move around. [00.51.15] Comment that polar travel is a skill and that it takes time to acquire it followed by examples of what explorers need to learn, including swimming through broken ice. [00.55.20] On not being in contact with the scientists but getting a detailed briefing, that Catlin then moved to do research on the Great Barrier Reef instead of the Arctic. [00.57.37] A discussion of the Cape Farewell project, his reaction to the work and meeting with Dan Harvey [of Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, note: interviewer confuses their surnames]. [1.02.52] Description of logistics of photographing Pen Hadow [PH] for the Times and PH’s sponsor, the Media Foundation in 2002, then to join the Franklin expedition then back to England then to Yellow Knife waiting to see if PH would get to the North Pole. MH was waiting for the Times to fly him to the North Pole, comments on the difficulties and costs of picking people up from the North Pole, missing the photos then a story about how his photographs were used without syndication so he didn’t get paid. [1.13.20] Description of a month long trip to the Andaman Islands in 2003 with Paul Deegan, invitation by the Indian Tourist Board to do a survey to help develop a tourism strategy especially for Nicobar. MH’s pleasure in the pictures and helping the islanders to buy a coconut oil machine. The tsunami  wiped out about half the population. MH’s return to the Arctic with Tom Avery who was running a dog expedition which was trying to get to the North Pole at the same time as Peary had. An account of a problem over the loan of a video camera, not publishing the photographs and seeing it as a bad experience. [1.19.26] A story about photographing Ben Saunders [BS] in 2004 trying to cross from Russia to Canada unsupported in and time photographing in Katanga in northern Siberia, missing a great photograph because MH had to catch his plane. Initiating his first proper contract [1.24.35] and photographing BS on the local rubbish tip then photographing at the fascinating [Golomyanniy] weather station, a problem with MH’s photographs taking precedence over BS personal life. An anecdote about a very dangerous flight in an unheated Russian helicopter with a fire on board and unfastened doors.
Life story interview with photographer Martin Hartley, 1968-