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Mountaineering Culture Studies Group Meeting
'The Lens in High Places: Photography and Mountaineering'
My chief question here will have to do with the matter and manner of representation of an extreme pursuit. Why has photography been so deeply intermeshed with mountaineering since its youngest days, particularly in the highest ranges? Its curious 'enabling' power notwithstanding, does it continue to be used in the same way as it was about a hundred years back, or can we trace a substantive difference in its present-day affordances? To start with an example that many will be familiar with (although many more and often highly interesting instances of camerawork were afoot in the day!), my point of departure will be the early twentieth century attempts on Everest. I shall work my way through those first concatenations of climbing and camerawork to the climactic moment in 1953 when the summit of Everest was reached, and to the present day when photographs of comparable ventures appear not so much in the periodicals of the _Royal Geographical Society_ as on the North Face blog. I should explore issues not only of commerce and journalism, but also the subject positions betrayed by the photographer and climber (two roles until very recently most intimately conflated). At the risk of seeming selective (although they will by no means be the sole subjects of my focus), I shall anchor my exploration around Eric Shipton, Frank Smythe, Conrad Anker, and Jimmy Chin.
Location: 4211 Angell Hall