The photographer

Mawson understood the value of the photograph not only in publicising the AAE but also in recording aspects of its work, including the science, for posterity. He included an official photographer among his AAE personnel and set aside the very large sum of £3,500 for photographic apparatus and supplies.

He chose his photographer partly on initiative. The young but experienced Sydney commercial photographer J ‘Frank’ Hurley, had offered to go without payment, and had bribed a train conductor to allow him to sit next to Mawson on a long interstate journey.

See Frank Hurley’s application to join Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition [PDF]. ©Mawson Antarctic Collection, South Australian Museum.

Hurley was employed not only to record the expedition with still images but also to act as ‘kinematographer’ (film-maker). He had no such experience but committed himself to mastering it.

When Hurley was accepted, his mother secretly wrote to Mawson, suggesting that her son was not physically healthy, which prompted Mawson to require Hurley to undergo a thorough medical examination. He passed the test, but remained confused as to what had prompted this questioning of his health.

See a letter from Gaumont vouching for Frank Hurley’s health [PDF].

Frank Hurley’s health and endurance proved more than adequate, he went on to complete two further Antarctic expeditions under the leadership of Shackleton and Mawson.