Pictures at an Exhibition: Frank Hurley's in the Grip of the Polar Pack Ice (1919)

By Dixon, Robert | Journal of Australian Studies, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Pictures at an Exhibition: Frank Hurley's in the Grip of the Polar Pack Ice (1919)


Dixon, Robert, Journal of Australian Studies


On the sweltering summer morning of Boxing Day 1909, thousands of Sydney-siders rode the King Street trams to the Stadium at Rushcutters Bay to witness a spectacle: the heavyweight title fight between Ruby Bob Fitzsimmons and Bill Lang. Following his brief early career in Australia, Fitzsimmons had been taken to the United States by promoter Larry Foley and became the first man in ring history to win three world titles. He was said to have a mind like 'electricity' and a punch 'as hard as a rivet gun'. (1) Since the 1890s, boxing had not only been a very popular form of live entertainment, but also as a subject in the new 'actuality' films. The Veriscope Company's film The Corbett--Fitzsimmons Fight was one of the earliest of these, premiering at New York's Academy of Music in May 1897. Approximately 100 minutes long, accompanied by a lecturer's commentary and occasionally interrupted by vaudeville acts, the film made up one of the first full-length entertainment programs to feature moving pictures. (2)

The promoter of the Sydney fight, Hugh D McIntosh, was another Australian who had won international celebrity. Born in Sydney in 1876, he began by staging fights on what was originally the site of a market garden at Rushcutters Bay, which eventually grew into the famous Sydney Stadium. Nick-named 'Huge Deal', McIntosh went on to pioneer large-scale entertainment promotion in London and the United States. He dressed like a prince and drove a Pierce-Arrow car with his crest on the side. It was his international connections that secured Ruby Bob Fitzsimmons for the Sydney Christmas season in 1909. Supervised by hundreds of police, 11,000 spectators paid from 5 shillings to 5 pounds a seat to watch the now 47-year-old Fitzsimmons beaten almost to death by the young, up-and-coming Melbourne boxer Bill Lang. (3)

Standing ring-side was the photographer Frank Hurley, then twenty-four, who would soon earn international fame in the Antarctic; with Mawson in 1911-1913 and Shackleton in 1914-1917. Using a London-made Ross twin-lens half-plate camera, Hurley was experimenting with high-speed action shots. Fifty years later, he told writer and sporting journalist D'Arcy Niland, 'No time was lost in replacing plates once a shot was taken. I could do it without losing the fighters' image on the screen because the camera was fitted with a special magazine ... which made the job of changing almost automatic'. (4) Hurley's photographs of the Lang--Fitzsimmons fight were published in the Lone Hand on 1 April 1910. The aging Fitzsimmons's face is sunburned and blistered, his mouth torn, the veins in his neck bulging with effort; Lang's nose is crushed on his cheek. The fighters' faces convey pain, bewilderment and exhaustion. The referee is caught in a moment of anguish as Fitzsimmons lies unconscious on the mat. The editorial was openly critical of boxing as a form of entertainment, citing Hurley's photographs as evidence of 'the state ... to which men are reduced in the course of these unedifying spectacles'. (5) Hurley later recalled the extraordinary effect his photographs had on people: 'For weeks they attracted crowds of curious and disputatious citizens around a Sydney shop window where they were displayed'. (6)

Exhibitions and Publicness

This account of the Lang-Fitzsimmons fight resonates with much recent work in cultural studies, cinema studies and literary history. Even at this early date we can see, for example, that the spectacular career of Frank Hurley was not entirely crafted by his own talents, remarkable though they were. His public life was also an artefact shaped by the emerging institutions and technologies of modernity, especially by the new forms of visuality: print culture, mass media and urban commercial entertainment. As Michael Gray and Gael Newton observe, Hurley was 'a child of the modern newspaper and magazine era, the musical show, the cinema, and newsreels'. (7) Yet this constitutive relation between his career and the technologies, social formations and institutions of international popular culture has only ever been incidental to writing about Hurley. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pictures at an Exhibition: Frank Hurley's in the Grip of the Polar Pack Ice (1919)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.