It’s been a century since the golden days of polar exploration, where legendary expedition photographers like Frank Hurley and Herbert Ponting famously documented the early Antarctic voyages of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Henry Shackelton. Yet, the collective idea of the ‘White Continent’ remains mostly unchanged – that of an isolated environment of icebergs, penguins, and jagged mountains, mostly devoid of humans. In this exhibition, Vancouver photographer Jeff Topham exposes a fresh angle on Antarctica. These images from voyages south as Photographer-in-Residence for a Canadian expedition travel company show that, these days, there is more than just ice and snow.
Reaching the seventh continent is now significantly easier than in Shackelton’s day – 75,000 people visited Antarctica in 2019. For those who do undertake the journey, photography still carries much of the same importance and purpose as it always has: to share images of a place few have seen and for scientific and educational purposes. Above all photography feeds the human need to prove ‘I was there.’ The increased human presence, combined with the ever-increasing effects of climate change, is placing the continent’s once pristine ecosystem under significant new pressure.
This exhibition pays homage to the early days of polar exploration while updating it for the current age. Topham challenges the Antarctic myth, asking us to question our responsibility as tourists in one of the planet’s last relatively untouched places, while also reminding us of our deep connection to the natural world – and ultimately, inspiring the will to protect it.
Please note this exhibition is wheelchair accessible through the back door.