Herbet Ponting was born in Salisbury in 1870. Not taking to his fathers profession as a banker, he emigrated to California in the 1890’s to pursue life as a rancher. After several failed ventures he took to photography, for which he had a natural flair.
This skill for journalism and an ability to shape a narrative into his photographic series led to him producing his most famous set of work, taken on Captain Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition, a race to the South Pole, between 1910 and 1913. Though the mission to the Pole was successful, the British did not win the race, and Scott and his companions tragically died on the return journey.
In the face of criticism for the expedition, Ponting felt obliged to prove that other important achievements had been made. Not only was he the first professional photographer to photograph the continent, Scott was the first explorer to make photography a notable department of a Polar expedition. The result of Ponting’s work was exhibited at The Fine Art Society in 1913, in a lavish catalogue unusually including illustrations.