Public Release: 

New book explores relationship between photography, exploration, science and culture

Investigating the role of photography in scientific exploration

University of Exeter


IMAGE: This is Herbert Ponting, 'Grotto in a berg. Terra Nova in distance.' Taylor and Wright (Interior) Jan. 5th 1911.' British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913. Gelatin silver print, 15.5 x 11.5 cm... view more

Credit: Royal Geographical Society

In his new book Photography and Exploration, James Ryan, Associate Professor of Historical and Cultural Geography at the University of Exeter, investigates the significant role of photography within modern practices of exploration.

He examines an array of photographs across several expeditions and considers how explorers have often employed images as a means of scientific advancement and of territorial conquest. He argues that, because exploration has long been bound up with the construction of national and imperial identity, expeditionary photographs have often been used to promote claims to power - especially by the West.

Published by Reaktion Books, the richly illustrated volume addresses such expeditions as the first ascent of Mount Everest and the first explorations of the North and South Poles to shed light on the ever-connected relationship between photography and culture.

Dr James Ryan said: "I wanted to probe the veracity of exploration photography and discuss its significance in a society that uses photographic images in both science and art. The book takes readers back to the world of the early 1800s, when explorers sailed the globe without cameras, and forward to our modern society where I ask if modern exploration could ever be conceivable without photography."

In Photography and Exploration, Ryan's insights shed light on how photography has altered our image of explorers, their expeditions and the worlds they witnessed. His work asks us to question how we perceive the world around us as the cultural interpretation and symbolic meaning of photographs develop with time.

Ryan's previous books include Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualization of the British Empire (Reaktion, 1997) and he is the co-editor of New Spaces of Exploration: Geographies of Discovery in the Twentieth Century (2010).

As a historical and cultural geographer, Ryan's research interests lie in the geographies of colonialism and post-colonialism, visual culture and geography; and the history of geographical knowledge and science.



Download a series of dramatic high resolution photographs from the book. Please include credits.

Photography and Exploration will be available online and in shops from Friday 28th July 2013. The official publication date is 15 August 2013.

Book Identifier ISBN-13: 978-1780231006

About the University of Exeter

The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13, the University of Exeter is a Russell Group university and in the top one percent of institutions globally. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 18,000 students and is ranked 7th in The Sunday Times University Guide, 10th in the UK in The Times Good University Guide 2012 and 10th in the Guardian University Guide. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 90% of the University's research was rated as being at internationally recognised levels and 16 of its 31 subjects are ranked in the top 10, with 27 subjects ranked in the top 20.

The University has invested strategically to deliver more than £350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses for 2012, including landmark new student services centres - the Forum in Exeter and The Exchange in Cornwall - and world-class new facilities for Biosciences, the Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute.

For further information:

Dr Jo Bowler
University of Exeter Press Office
Office: +44 (0)1392 722062
Mobile: +44(0)7827 309 332
Twitter: @UoE_ScienceNews

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.