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Matinee: Jane Ussher's 'Still Life' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

19 June 2021

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 401st in our series of Saturday matinees today: Jane Ussher's Still Life.

In this 4:38 video, New Zealand photographer Jane Ussher describes her trip to Antarctica where she spent four weeks over the summer of 2008-2009 photographing the three historic huts that served as bases for Robert Falcon Scott and Earnest Shackleton's pioneering expeditions.

The Still Life exhibition projects her images of Antarctica as well as the inside of the huts on the interior walls of several cubes. For 10 minutes you are surrounded by ice or inside the Antarctic huts of the explorers.

Photographing the men's personal items broke her heart.

The huts are now under the care of the Antarctice Heritage Trust, the guys who discovered three crates of Shackleton's whisky.

Ussher made her own precious discoveries as she spent a few days in the huts. Like dress shoes. What were these guys thinking when they packed dress shoes to visit this desolate continent? And cuff links, too.

The video walks us through the exhibit so we get a sense of the experience. It's narrated by Ussher herself who begins by explaining she likes the dark moody, long-exposure side of life but found herself stepping off a plane onto a white sheet of ice that went on forever. The prospects for success seemed dim to her.

The huts, fortunately, were dark and moody, just her style.

Everybody who gets inside the huts is profoundly moved by them, she says. But not many people get to travel to Antarctica to spend a few minutes in the huts. So she created this immersive experience with her Hasselblad and two assistants bouncing light and using flashlights to illuminate the multi-exposure shots.

Photographing the men's personal items broke her heart, she says. The men expecting to slip into those shoes and put on those cuff links never returned to their huts.

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