Thursday, September 12, 2013

Everest, by the Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society gives an exhibition of its photo archives from early expeditions to the world's highest mountain in Everest. This large volume contains images from 1921 to 1953 of the Society-supported expeditions (through the Mount Everest Committee), including several new to me and likely previously-unpublished. Though the bulk of the book, containing hundreds of images, rehashes the tried-and-true photographs that make up the canon of Everest photographic history, the sheer number of photos means that even the Everest aficionado will find something here to like, as well.

It seems like, with Lowe and Lewis-Jones' recent The Conquest of Everest, we have two photobooks serving the same purpose, but the Royal Geographical Society's work covers the early expeditions in addition to the 1953 (though in less detail than the first ascent), and the presentations on 1953 have different focuses. Conquest sticks to the action on the mountain in 1953, whereas Everest uses a more documentary style in its photo selections. Lowe's work serves additionally as a memoir, while RGS focuses on its photo presentation, excepting a short introduction by Jan Morris and a couple paragraphs on each of the expeditions. There are two wonderful images of Lowe on the Southeast Ridge in Everest, by the way, that you won't find in Conquest. 

It's amazing to think that these hundreds of photos are but a taste of the tens of thousands of images from Everest expeditions within the RGS' archives. I imagine they are capable of producing books on this scale of each individual expedition, instead of Everest's entire early history. I'm grateful for the many new images I experienced within Everest, but it also makes me hungry for more!  Perhaps in 2021, 2022, 2024....

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