James Francis (Frank) Hurley (1885 – 1962) is regarded as an extraordinary Australian photographer, adventurer, filmmaker and writer. His craving for exploration and adventure complemented his image-making to produce some of the most enduring achievements of Australian photography, and a profound impact on a young Australian film industry. Hurley’s most consequential work comes from his first two trips to Antarctica. Among his best-known images, are those of the destruction of the Endurance, during Ernest Shackleton’s legendary ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1914-16.
Hurley was much more than an Antarctic photographer, however. In addition to his incredible image-making activity in Australia, he was an official correspondent during the First and Second World Wars. In the 1920s, he also ventured into the Torres Strait and Papua New Guinea at a time when few people of European descent had ever been there. Hurley was a self-confessed ‘showman’. He embellished images to maximise their visual impact, for example by using the technique of composite printing (combining the best elements of several shots into one). While such manipulation was common in pictorial photography, Hurley was criticised for using it to enhance documentary images. Years after his death, interest in Hurley’s work continues. His adventures, photographs and films are the subject of various publications and exhibitions, and his material is keenly sought for private and public collections, internationally and locally.