Hartley, Martin. (6 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 6: Brief comments on Mandela’s memorial service, Mandela’s impact, Bristol as a centre of the slave trade, the images, the experience at the printers of MH’s new Arctic book of seeing a book waiting to be published after Mandela’s death. [00.04.50] a continuation of helicopter story [Track 5] with comments about ‘big business and dodgy people’ and MH’s experience of problems with the authorities and an explanation of why expeditions employ local people. Brief description of his week after his return to London after this 2004 expedition and how that has changed with his shift to digital, detailed description of changing technology, costs and methods of sending images back daily, taking a portable battery powered satellite dish, his computer designed by Perrin Newman and Michael [?] in Devon, 41 years since the first photo of Antarctica by Apollo 17, scanning images and making a CD for the client. [00.18.58] brief comment about returning to normal life and photo commissions then an expedition across Antarctica as support for a team which was kiting from west to east which failed, comments about the problems of and time involved in driving in Antarctica. [00.23.36] Comments on the increase in numbers of people visiting Antarctica and that he has become involved in this through teaching photography, the environmental impact and number of people getting off ships to see the penguins, albatross and elephant seals, the companies involved, his attitude, being respectful of the environment and mention of Paul Deegan’s Everest base case camp clean-up in the 1980s. Comments on penguin watching, an Antarctic treaty, tourism and commercial guidelines and changes since MH’s first visit in 2001. Comments about waiting for transport and the problems for planes with cross winds at the base in Patriot Hills, MH’s enjoyment of spending additional time there without pressure to send images back. Comments about Nikon sponsorship. [00.33.32] Description of the weather and light in Antarctica in November and December and a comparison with the Arctic. Comments about battery power and not looking at the day’s pictures, the issue of focus, having a mental list. Comments about how not having an agenda affected the expedition, mention of Steve Jones decision to climb a nearby mountain, Robin Woodhead, Connor Hickwell (film cameraman) Steve Cotton (landrover mechanic). A story about an urgent medical problem for MH and Dr Martin Rhodes solution, the impossibility and cost of arranging emergency plane rescue, eventual flight out to hospital in Puenta Arenas and MH’s reception there. The problem of getting a flight upgrade and the medical response once MH was back in England. Comments on the rareness of having a doctor on an expedition but having a medical kit and a doctor on call and having good first aid skills, the sorts of problems people face on expeditions. [00.54.36] Comment that the medical kit for the river Niger trip was much larger and the sort of problems encountered there which are unpredictable and microscopic such as bilharzia. Mention of Patrick Woodhead and David de Rothschild. [00.58.15] Brief mention of a trip back to the Arctic in 2009 on an expedition trying to vindicate Peary’s claim to be the first person to get to the north geographic pole . [00.58.45] Description of a 2006 invitation to go across the top of the world from Siberia to Canada with a dog team. Invitation from David de Rothschild, expedition with Paul Landry & Sarah McNair-Landry. Description of the expedition preparation, MH getting frostbite in his toes on their training expedition on Baffin Island, his frustration at not being able to return for medical attention, his problem with ski-ing and eventual return to Britain and medical treatment. An anecdote about having to go to France to photograph the chef de camp of Mumms champagne in a suit wearing green down boots because of the frostbite, mention of Mumm’s sponsorship of an explorer called [Jean-Baptiste] Charcot. [1.09.25] Comment on missing the start of the expedition from Russia, the changed group dynamic, photographing the preparations in Siberia and the weather station at Golomyanniy, a description of MH’s further travels and an anecdote about being stranded in St Petersburg then flying to Svalbard where he met Robin Garrett and Daisy Gilardini, a portrait of Alain Hubert, a great re-union with David de Rothschild and MH’s supplies, culture shock difficulties and missing a photograph by helping out. [1.29.26] Comments about it being in MH’s contract that he will photograph rather than help, why photographs of expeditions are important to explorers as well as sponsors, a better understanding and acceptance of MH’s role, the need for some sort of professional image delivery. [1.32.37] Comment that this helps MH because he needs to be an observer and a bit more independent than everyone in the group and leave the group and look at it, that he has to work a bit harder, his days start earlier and end later. Comment that this has got harder over time. [1.35.02] Comments about he way a team of four interacts, Paul Landry & Sarah McNair-Landry [SML], a disagreement between MH and SML, the importance of knowing people’s strengths and weaknesses because of being in circumstance where risk is normal and rescue might be impossible, an account of Simon Yates and Jo Simpson’s mountain climbing accident in the Andes. [1.43.45] Thoughts on the different risk levels in the Arctic and Antarctic and a mention of being alone in the Arctic with Pen Hadow and Anne Daniels right at the end of the season when everyone else had left. [1.46.58] Description of photographing Rosie Stancer’s preparations for an expedition to the north pole in 2007, his first meeting with her in the Patriot Hills [Antarctica] in 2002, her sponsors, MH’s admiration for her power and determination. His pleasure with the photograph taken in a moment of calm and reflection and recognition that his role can be to become invisible in someone’s life. [1.52.18] Description of becoming a polar guide and photographer for a group from the city organised by a friend, Mark Davey [?] who runs the Youth Adventure Trust, travelling with the inexperienced, travelling problems, the vertical drop in morale and the group decision to give up, MH’s shock and sense that he had not provided enough positive motivation and the role his photography played in this. [2.02.42] Reflection on the impact of MH’s father’s death in 2012 and finding work a distraction, a project ice fishing in British Columbia and then being in the Yukon, meeting Gary Rusnack [?], a guide, MH joined his expedition and enjoyed it. [2.05.13] Mention of a difficult but enjoyable trip to Kamchatka which was quite difficult and further reflections on MH’s father’s role in his life. Comments on his concern about his physiology becoming something which is stopping him doing certain things, the limited lifespan for the job, his changed attitudes and the difference in his photographs, his responsibility to the sponsors, the huge adrenalin rush when he gets to the ice. [2.12.52] Comments about going to the arctic every year more or less and its importance to him, future plans for Arctic and Antarctic and some teaching, his role as a specialist in a very small community with very few jobs, getting work by word of mouth, inability to market himself, an anecdote about trying to find an agent. [2.17.09] Comment about his website and about Anthony Jinman who set up a charity called Education through Expeditions with Plymouth University and does solo expedition to Antarctica and another photographer who MH knew at college. 2.21.17 An account of a trip to Canada in 2008 Ben when Saunders was preparing for a North Pole speed record, a sound/film man who had an interest in taking portraits and his camera problems. A comment on the sponsor, Ernest Young, accountants, and their use of the pictures for their recruitment advertising. [2.24.25] A description of the Catlin Arctic Survey to collect data about sea ice which, in Dec 2008, Pen Hadow invited MH to join, the importance of having a sense of purpose plus a contribution to understanding. On being in the dark for 24 hours a day, head torches, his fears, the silence, staying in an old mining camp which felt as if it had just been abandoned, the wind, the effects of the dark, reverting to a 25 hour clock. [2.39.05] Further description of the Catlin Survey in 2009, comments on MH’s involvement in every aspect of the expedition, training with Jon Stafford, a rich and fulfilling expedition, sending pictures back, failure of the radar, laughter, a compliment about his photographs from Perrin Newman. [2.43.2]0 Description of waiting for a resupply plane which could not get in and hardly eating for ten days, recurrence of frostbite and the problems it caused. [2.46.33] Mention of the second Catlin expedition in 2010 with Anne Daniels but not Pen Hadow. Description of MH’s equipment and his new Leica and Weston light meter which didn’t need batteries, working with film, how MH sees the cameras and how it affects his work, moving towards not using film, the beauty of the Leica. [2.51.54] Comment that being interviewed has reinvigorated his interest in taking photos for the sake of it rather than for commercial gain and stopped him selling the Leica, that the photographers whose work he loved were all Leica users and had always wanted a Leica.
Life story interview with photographer Martin Hartley, 1968-