Some photographs are best left to be discovered decades after they were first exposed. Much like the work of Vivian Maier — whose images were found years after she said her goodbyes — a recent finding of 22 undeveloped cellulose nitrate negatives from a 1914–17 Antarctic expedition reignites our wonder at the opportunity to glimpse a past thought lost.
This set of photographs captures Ross Island, McMurdo Sound, and Alexander Stevens, the expedition’s chief scientist. Ten men from that expedition, which was part of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Ross Sea party, were stranded on the icy continent for nearly two years after their ship, the SY Aurora, broke loose during a gale and drifted out to sea. Three men would die, including the party’s photographer Arnold Patrick Spencer-Smith.
These are images from an era that is fondly referred to as that of “heroic exploration.” There was only minimal damage to the edges of the photographs, and conservators were thus able to perform a nearly complete restoration (the partially mould-covered photographs had been found blocked together). New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust executive director Nigel Watson said in a press release:
“It’s the first example that I’m aware of, of undeveloped negatives from a century ago from the Antarctic heroic era. There’s a paucity of images from that expedition.”
The explorers’ choice of cellulose nitrate film was at least partially to thank for the image preservation. According to Kodak, the nitrate base was used in motion picture film, and eliminated from production around 1951–52. Known to be a relatively unstable base, such film easily becomes a fire hazard if it is not allowed proper ventilation. It breaks down in higher temperatures, and when it deteriorates it emits toxic gases that are oxidizing agents. The Kodak site goes on to note that under the right conditions, cellulose nitrate film can last for “decades or generations.” Nitrate film that is decomposing will be sticky or “badly buckled.”
Luckily, the film that these explorers left behind in Antarctica didn’t contend with anything that would cause it to combust: temperatures at McMurdo Station, near where the images were found, range from –28 degrees Celsius (–18 degrees Fahrenheit) to –3 degrees Celsius (27 degrees Fahrenheit).
h/t The Verge
Al-Hadid’s new mosaic features the famed clock that hung at the entrance of the original station until the building was demolished in the 1960s.
The excavation project also yielded Old Kingdom-era amulets, stoneware, and daily-use tools.
Join the New-York Historical Society on February 10 for a virtual conversation about our changing relationship to the natural world with Julie Decker, John Grade, and LaMont Hamilton.
The steel spike clad in gold and silver commemorated the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
Thanks to a $3.3 million grant from the state’s Creative Corps, artists can now apply to bring the project to their neighborhood.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including Alicia Piller, Brad Phillips, Mulyana, the MexiCali Biennial, and more.
Her solo exhibition at the Los Angeles institution demonstrates how natural light can turn an overlooked, everyday setting into a sublime landscape.
Presented by Northwestern’s Block Museum and McCormick School of Engineering, this new exhibition seeks empathy at the boundaries of life. On view in Evanston, Illinois.
Nicola López and Paula Wilson’s exhibition Becoming Land considers anthropocentric relationships with New Mexico’s desert landscapes.
A festival dedicated to Davinci’s The King Show celebrates the LA artist’s trippy remixing of stock footage, Hollywood cinema, and theater.
Located in Des Moines, Iowa, this residency for emerging and established artists includes studio and living space, a $1,000 monthly stipend, and more.
20th Century Indian Art: Modern, Post-Independence, Contemporary surveys the many distinct aspects of art in South Asia.
Moving too fast on your commute, looking out of the corner of your eye one second too late, and you might miss HOTTEA’s yarn installations.