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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Self portrait

c. 1911
Frank Hurley OBE

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 25.4 cm x 15.2 cm, image: 19.8 cm x 12.7 cm)

Frank Hurley OBE (1885–1962), photographer, cinematographer and adventurer, made his name with the images and footage he took during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911–14. Hurley became interested in photography as a teenager, acquiring his first camera at seventeen and a job with a Sydney postcard company before he turned twenty. He was twenty-five when he persuaded Douglas Mawson to take him on as the official photographer for the AAE (the British photographer, Herbert Ponting, had been Mawson’s first choice). Working in extreme conditions, Hurley took numerous photographs and the footage that was later released as the documentary Home of the Blizzard (1913). Hurley was also the official photographer for Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated British Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917, during which he created the celebrated photographs of the expedition ship Endurance being slowly crushed in the polar ice. Hurley served as an official photographer during World War I, earning a reputation among the troops as ‘the mad photographer’ for the risks he took to get the perfect shot. His many photographs of battlefields in Belgium and France are now considered iconic, but were the cause of conflict with Australia’s official war historian, Charles Bean, who rejected Hurley’s method of forming single images from a composite of negatives. Hurley had great flair for showmanship and spent much of the period after the war presenting illustrated lectures and exhibitions of his photographs, making popular documentary and fiction films, and working for the newsreel company, Cinesound. Hurley made his third trip to Antarctica, again with Mawson, in the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) of 1929–31, producing two films – Southward Ho! with Mawson and Siege of the South – as a result. He served with the AIF in the Middle East in World War II. In addition to his famous wartime and Antarctic work, Hurley’s career produced several documentaries and travelogues; two feature films; and numerous books about Australia and his travels.

Purchased 2005

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Frank Hurley OBE (age 26 in 1911)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related portraits

1. Eric Douglas, c. 1929-1931. All Frank Hurley OBE.
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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