Herbert Ponting - A Constant Pursuit: Photographs from the Collection of Ed Cohen & Victoria Shaw New York Thursday, October 4, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Sotheby's, London, 7 May 1998, lot 51

  • Catalogue Essay

    This group of photographs presents unprecedented documentation of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s heroic Antarctic expedition. Ponting signed on as official photographer for the venture in 1911, and set up his darkroom in the harsh conditions of Scott’s base camp at Cape Evans on Ross Island, just off the coast of Antarctica. Despite the fact that photographic film was in standard use at the time, Ponting insisted instead on using glass negatives, and this choice accounts for the clarity of the images in this lot. Ponting, who had photographed in his native England, Russia, Japan, and America, was clearly inspired by the new frozen world around him, and his images captured a landscape that was completely alien to viewers of the day. He also took photographs of camp life, the team’s crew and science officers, several of Scott, the expedition’s ship, the Terra Nova, and local wildlife. Ponting’s photographs encompass the beauties and hardships of the expedition.

    Scott faced competition in his race to claim the South Pole, from his fellow Britain Ernest Shackleton and the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Scott and a small team, not including Ponting, ultimately did reach the Pole, after great difficulty, only to find that Amundsen had gotten there several weeks before. Demoralized, Scott and his team began the return journey, only to perish in the sub-zero cold. Scott had intended to use Ponting’s photographs, as well as his motion pictures, as an integral part of his post-expedition publicity, exhibitions, and as illustrations for lectures and other public events that would cover the expenses of the journey and provide and him an income. While that role for the photographs would go unfulfilled, Ponting’s images remain an indelible document of the expedition and of the human drive to explore.

  • Artist Biography

    Herbert Ponting

    British • 1870 - 1935

    Herbert Ponting was a self-taught photographer with a particular interest in stereographs. He turned his hobby into a career in 1900 after winning a world prize for a telephoto of San Francisco Bay, and another work, Mules at a Californian Roundup, that became a centerpiece for Kodak's exhibit at the World Fair in St. Louis. Afterward, he started selling stereograph negatives for publications in European and American magazines and was invited to New York for syndicated magazine work. These documentary photography contributions required him to travel the world extensively.  In 1902 and 1905 he made several trips to Japan and published a highly-acclaimed book on Japanese culture entitled Lotus-land Japan. In 1909 and from 1910 to 1912 he was the photographer for the expeditions to the Antarctic led by Captain R.F. Scott, thus becoming the first official photographer ever to join an Antarctic expedition. The work from his Antarctic series received critical acclaim for their outstanding use of light, composition and dramatic effects of ridges, castle icebergs and polar icebergs. 


    View More Works


Selected Images of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Expedition to the Antarctic

190 gelatin silver prints.
Each approximately 6 3/4 x 4 3/4 in. (17.1 x 12.1 cm) or the reverse
Each variously numbered and/or titled in ink or pencil on the verso.

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $25,000

Contact Specialist
Caroline Deck
Head of Sale, Senior Specialist

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairman, Americas

General Enquiries
+1 212 940 1245

A Constant Pursuit: Photographs from the Collection of Ed Cohen & Victoria Shaw

New York Auction 4 October 2018