Sunday, August 21, 2011

Alfred Gregory's Everest, by Alfred Gregory

Alfred Gregory finally presents a folio of his Everest photographs in Alfred Gregory's Everest. Previously he had turned over his negatives to the Himalayan Committee, and it was not until the 1990s that Gregory got to develop his own negatives and present his work on the 1953 initial ascent of Mount Everest. The collection shows the artistic as well as the photojournalistic view of this historic climb. There are many of the famous photographs associated with the climb, such as an exhausted Bourdillon and Evans upon their return from the South Summit, as well as a number of rarely-seen beautiful images, such a photo of ice pinnacles near Base Camp. Of course, there are no summit photographs in this work, but Gregory accompanied Tenzing and Hillary to their summit assault camp, and his work covers all but the final climb of the expedition. There is a foreword to the book by Jan Morris, who discusses the significance of the climb and the roles of the Everest journalists, including Morris, Gregory, and Tom Stobart. Gregory, in his introduction discusses his many trips to the Everest region and how it has changed over the 40 years between the climb and the publication of his folio. He also tells a couple interesting stories about the climb that eluded other chroniclers, such as listening to the FA Cup Final while at Lake Camp or a tale of a collapsing serac in the Khumbu Icefall.

The book is a a huge improvement over The Picture of Everest, the photo book released soon after the climb. The original was quite grainy, though there was some color printing. (Alfred Gregory's Everest is all black and white.) I can understand why Gregory would consider the current volume the first exposition of "his" work. He states in this book that the Times was primarily responsible for the early development of the photo negatives and that it was the first time they had worked in the 35 mm format. In addition to these two, Gregory's family released a posthumous full-color Alfred Gregory: Photographs from Everest to Africa in 2008. You can also read more about the joys of camera work on the 1953 ascent in Tom Stobart's autobiography,  Adventurer's Eye, or more about the joys of journalism during the climb in Jan (James) Morris' Coronation Everest.

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