his life and photographic work by Roland Glaser
4th December 2009

Frank Hurley, “the mad photographer”
Born in 1885, Frank Hurley led a rough-and-tumble youth in Australia, during which he ran away from home and earned his living at manual labor, from the dockyards to the ironworks. Later, his passion for photography became his livelihood.
At 26, Hurley was hired as the photographer for Sir Douglas Mawson's 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Hurley's immense talents were already evident in this early work, including the film Home of the Blizzard, which brought him to the attention of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
In 1914, Shackleton signed Hurley as photographer for his British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and formed the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Film Syndicate Ltd. to raise funds from the sale of Hurley's still photographs and motion pictures.
When the Endurance sailed in October 1914, Hurley carried a range of cameras, including a Cinematograph motion-picture camera, a square bellows stand plate camera, and a Vest Pocket Kodak camera. The crew was astonished by the lengths to which he would go for an image, from high in the ship's rigging to the back of a dogsled.
After they abandoned the debilitated Endurance, Shackleton ordered the crew members to pare their personal possessions down to two pounds each. Hurley had to leave his precious cameras behind, but Shackleton allowed him to keep a selection of photographs and motion-picture footage. Hurley documented the remainder of their odyssey with only a handheld Vest Pocket Kodak camera and three rolls of film.  
In 1917, he became one of the AIF's official photographers with the honorary rank of captain. Some of Hurley's most famous images of the war were taken during the Passchendaele campaign in the second half of 1917.
He ran considerable risks to get his shots, earning the name 'the mad photographer' from the troops.
In 1919, his original motion-picture footage of the Endurance expedition was released in the film In the Grip of the Polar Pack, which quickly became a popular success.
In the years that followed, Hurley was attached to the Australian Imperial Force as its official photographer, documenting the battles of World War II.
After the war, he traveled extensively on photographic expeditions, ranging from Tasmania to Papua New Guinea to Palestine and back to his native Australia.
He died on January 16, 1962.