On 31 December 1892, 22-year old Herbert Ponting left Liverpool, England, and a secure banking job for a new life in post-Gold Rush California. A decade later, as a self-trained professional photographer, he exhibited in salons and World Fairs, then crossed the Pacific to Asia. In Japan, he photographed everything from tea ceremonies to volcanoes. Continuing his travels, Ponting reported on the Russo-Japanese war, toured India and, in 1907, boarded the Trans-Siberian Railway. Back in London, Ponting’s work appeared in numerous illustrated magazines and prestigious exhibitions, including 1910’s Japan–British Exhibition. When Captain Robert Scott asked the now-famous photographer to join his second Antarctic expedition, Ponting seized what appeared to be the opportunity of a lifetime.
In 1912, Ponting returned from Antarctica with stunning photographs and over 30,000 ft of film recorded under the harshest of conditions. In early 1913, news of Scott’s death reached London and everything changed for Ponting. Over the next two decades, Ponting told Scott’s story in cinema lectures, in photographic exhibitions, in a best-selling Antarctic memoir, in a silent film, in early BBC radio broadcasts, and finally in a pioneering ‘talkie’.
This new biography of Herbert Ponting follows the creator of some of the twentieth century’s most iconic images from boyhood in mid-Victorian Salisbury, by way of America, Asia and Antarctica, to his 1935 ‘special effects’ screen credit. Drawing on previously unpublished correspondence and photographs, it provides new insights into the making of the man Captain Robert Scott trusted to record Antarctica and its wildlife and inspire new generations of explorers and naturalists.