Essential Information

Type Conferences & study days
Date and Times Thursday 2 December – Friday 3 December
Prices Free — registration essential

This interdisciplinary conference examines the role of photography and film narratives in shaping cultural perceptions of the Arctic, Antarctic and the history of polar exploration. 

Please note that this conference will take place on Zoom. Instructions on joining the conference will be emailed nearer the time.

Conference programme

Each session consists of 3 x 15mins presentation, with 30 mins questions to all three speakers at the end of the session. The times on the schedule are according to (GMT Greenwich Meantime, UK).

Day One: Thursday 2 December

Conference begins: 10.50am -11am.

Opening remarks: Julian Dowdeswell, Trustee of Royal Museums Greenwich.

Session 1: 11am-12.15pm GMT: Re-examining Histories of Polar Expedition Photography

Chair: Jeremy Michell, Senior Curator, National Maritime Museum.

  • Geir Kløver. Director, The Fram Museum. ‘The Nansen Photographs: Images from the First Fram Expedition.’
  • Mark Pharaoh, Mawson Centre South Australian Museum. ‘“According to Hoyle”: Official Photographer Frank Hurley’s Re-writing the of the Rules on the Mawson Aurora Expedition 1911-14.’
  • Anne Lydiat Wainwright, Central St. Martins, University of Arts London and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. ‘In the Wake of Louise Arner Boyd (1887-1992).’

Session 2: 2pm – 3.15pm: New Perspectives on Polar Expedition Films

Chair: Liz Watkins, University of Leeds.

  • Bryony Dixon. Curator of Silent Film, BFI National Archive. ‘A Journey Back to Sub-Zero.’
  • Ian Christie, Birkbeck College. ‘Ponting’s ‘Monumentary’: Film Footage Through Time.’
  • Gregory A Waller, Indiana University, USA. ‘Mawson in America: The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911-13) as Illustrated Lecture and Repurposable Footage.’

Day Two: Friday 3 December

Session 3: 11am-12.15pm: (In)visibilities and Antarctica

Chair: Ian Christie, Birkbeck College.

  • Lisa Roberts, Artist in Residence in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Visiting Scientist (a.k.a. Artist) at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). ‘Combining scientific data and cultural connections.’
  • Megan Jenkinson, photographer, ‘The Certainty of Their Vanishing.’
  • Liz Watkins, Research Fellow, University of Leeds and Caird Short-term Fellow, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. ‘Darkrooms: photographic records of polar expeditions from film laboratories to cinema auditoriums and lecture halls.’

Social break: 1.15pm–1.45pm bring your own coffee/ informal online discussion session.

Session 4: 2pm-3.15pm: Archives and Exhibitions: Photographic Collections at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Chair: Claire Warrior, Senior Exhibitions and Interpretation Curator, National Maritime Museum.

  • Jeremy Michell, Senior Curator, Maritime Technologies. ‘The Photographic Collection at Royal Museums Greenwich: ‘with a peep into the Polar basin’ (and apologies to E. A. Inglefield).’
  • Sascia Nieuwenkamp, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. ‘The W. Bruce Collection of Magic Lantern Slides’.

The full conference programme and abstracts can be found here: 

More information

Museum collections and archives store photographs and films that were produced using a diverse range of technologies and techniques. 

Photographic records include scientific experiments with telephoto lenses, flashlight photography, chrono-photography, photomicrography, early colour processes (Autochromes, Paget Plates), as well as time-lapse and animated studies of wildlife and inhospitable polar climates, which were made contemporary to the emergence of cinema. 

The work of amateur photographers during this period also captures chance observations of social interactions and the physical imprint of work in an extreme environment. Digital copies of these light sensitive materials often form the initial point of public access to these important records, but can also mediate views of the Arctic and Antarctic expeditions they document. 

This conference brings together scholars, curators and artists whose work examines the histories and theories of memory photography and film. The conference will explore how photography and film intersect with narratives of exploration, looking at politics and ideologies (gender, class, imperialism), and unpacking the subtext of these narratives and how they have been subverted. It will also look at how photography and film have been used in educational and entertainment forms both past and present.  


Liz Watkins, Research Fellow, University of Leeds

Sally Archer, Research and Heritage Partnerships Manager, Royal Museums Greenwich

Jeremy Michell, Senior Curator, Maritime Technologies, Royal Museums Greenwich