Sunday, February 06, 2011

Jane Ussher's Still Life

Still Life: Inside the Antarctic Huts of Scott and Shackleton is a magnificent book of haunting photographs by Jane Ussher. Not since Ponting have these buildings been so beautifully photographed. Jane's images of the huts deserted for 100 years and yet almost undecayed are strong enough to sit comfortably alongside the now iconic contemporary images of Scott and Shackleton's occupation. And as a book object, this heavy, cloth bound volume, with wide format photos in gatefolds at the centre of every black stitched section, is covetable.

Jane Ussher's slide show from the book.

One of my Antarctica projects involves some text which I have cut out of blankets. I always like to have a portable stitching project so I can work on it away from home. Icebergs and coal mining tunnels are bulky and awkward, but I can pull these letters out of my handbag anywhere, anytime and blanket stitch the edges while I talk or wait. I can even look at photos and stitch at the same time! Which gave me this idea...

"t" with cross next to Shackleton's hut

I'm stitching what is probably the most famous and poignant quote in Antarctica's short history. Captain Oates' final words as recorded by Captain Scott: "I'm just going outside and I may be some time". In the Huntsford-led campaign to undermine Scott's heroic legacy, this quote has been disputed, but I agree with Fiennes that the words were in character for Oates.

Anyway, I'm stitching each letter in random order so there's nothing much that makes sense from the letters completed so far, except this:


Tim Jones said...

It may be impious of me, but I wonder how Scott would have reacted if Oates had stood up, said "A yes meme", and then walked out into the blizzard?

However Scott reacted, Huntsford would have found some way to hold it against him...

Bob McKerrow said...

I really admire what you are doing. Having visited Scott's hut that Shackleton lived in on Pram Point on the 1901-02 expedition and then visited many times his superb hut at Cape Royds, I am a great Shackelton fan.

But he was complex: frivolous, serious, oozing charm and could get thousands of pounds out of aging, but intelligent society ladies in England and other isles of Britian. What made him great was his merchant seamanship background and his ability to lead, motivate and inspire. It was a fellow NZer Frank Worsely that made Shackleton look greater tha he was, by the way he bavigated and got them back to South Georgia, But then Ernest selected him, so again he was a great selector and nurturer of men. He nurtured many women too from letters I saw in the Scott Polar Research Institute, and fron conversations with Bob Headlandd from the SPRI. Good luck !

Carol said...

This is a poignant, haunting video, made even more so by the soundtrack. I'm ashamed to say I know very little about this Antarctic history so I'm very grateful for the insight you have been giving me over the past year.