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Watkins, L (2018)
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Languages: English
Types: Part of book or chapter of book
The colours of early non-fiction films – although variously elusive in their photographic registration – were designed to be viewed sensuously.1 Colour, although complicated by the technical limits of photographic technologies, was a topic of concern for the scientific study of Antarctic wildlife, the landscape, and the chromatic effects of meteorological phenomena during the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration (1897–1922). The last decades of the nineteenth century saw the Royal Geographical Society invest in the lantern slide lecture as an educational model able to entice and entertain public interest: in popular exhibition, sensationalism and geography were already linked.2 Natural phenomena such as a flower opening or the uncertain movement of a storm at sea could offer an enchanting spectacle and as Gunning suggests, even in films with little narrative to discern, ‘colour seems to function as an attraction, a very direct visual stimulus. It’s something to look at, something to surprise you, to amaze you’.3 An analysis of the exhibition and performance of the photographic and cinematographic materials produced by Herbert G Ponting on Captain R F Scott’s fated British Antarctic Expedition 1910–13 and in reference to Frank Hurley’s work on Earnest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–16 indicates that although colour eluded direct registration by any single medium (photography, film, sketches, watercolours, journals, meteorological notes), its recurrence in narratives and representations of the Antarctic for public exhibition is significant. Colour was evoked through the combination of media in ‘synchronised lecture entertainments’ as both a spectacle and as a referent in the depiction of landscape and the formation of narratives intended for public consumption
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