Without Stopping: Taking Tea with New Zealand’s Natural History Film-Maker, Anthony Powell

I was reminded of the time when I had been travelling with my partner Kathy, through Morocco in 2002 when aged 19, after our first year exams in medical school.  I had been reading Paul Bowles’s brilliant Autobiography, ‘Without Stopping’ (who wrote the Sheltering Sky) and came across the name and literary work of author, Mohamed Choukri, the famous Moroccan writer and friend of Bowles. He was the Salmon Rushdie equivalent of the Middle East and North Africa, a local, literary outlaw, who covered banned topics and underworld elements of Arabic life, with open honesty and factual rigor.  I visited a café he often frequented and got his phone number from a person there.  I called him up and we had spoken for some time afterwards – I was curious to find out about the man and learn more about Bowles.  It was a success.  He told me a few interesting stories of Tangiers, long before I got there.  Sadly, he died soon afterwards, in 2003.

Whilst at McMurdo, after I had finished work in the Dental Surgery one day, I called the four digit number I had been given and a bright and cheery New Zealand accent came down the line.

I had been tipped off the four-digit number for Anthony Powell’s work number by McMurdo’s operator, who knew my voice personally since we had exchanged multiple communications and conversations from Concordia, before I had arrived.

I was equally curious.  His name had appeared at the end of the credits for the BBC Natural History Unit’s Frozen Planet series.  They were all heroes in my mind – having produced ground-shattering HD imagery of the natural world and polar regions, as we have never seen it before.

And here we were, living in the Frozen Planet.

I arranged to meet Anthony and of course, in line with The Kumars’ rules of social conduct had been distracted and was late.  I knocked on his door and thought again how I hate being late.

A bearded New Zealander poked his head out and welcomed me in.  New Zealand in Antarctica I thought.   It felt like a home.

We chatted for sometime about various techniques and experiences.  He and his wife, Christine, had over-wintered in McMurdo a fair few times and we well set up having been here, on and off, since the summer of '97/'98- about 14 years.

Out came the herbal tea and New Zealand Honey.  I was delighted.

I admired his perseverance to get the shots.  It reminded me of fellow northerner and friend, Martin Hartley- a British Yorkshire photographer who had shot a lot in the polar regions, who had been bothered many-a-time by me with questions before I left.

It takes perseverance here to get the right shot.  I’ve noticed it when I am trying to set up the equipment – and your hands are freezing- and your cheeks sting – your moustache is full of ice and you then have to take your glove off to fiddle.  It is dedication to the viewer.  If you’re watching at home, grab hold of your tea and enjoy the ride.  You’ll never know how cold it is here!

Its a sign of immense quality when the BBC's Natural History Unit comes knocking on your door after your footage, that you've taken in your spare time.

Anthony showed me some of his footage from a film containing Antarctica’s best time-lapse shots, he will bring out in the cinemas in a year or so.  It also contained some funny shots of experiences of winter-over folk in McMurdo, which I often think of as the Caribbean resort of Antarctica, as they struggle with the lack of sunlight and stimulation.  It's all to come for me, I thought.

I went home having learnt something, from a Modern Master.

Well worth a watch.  Check out Ant’s work… some of his photos are below.

For more information about Anthony Powell:

For more information about Mohamed Choukri see:

For more information about Martin Hartley see:

 

Date

February 26, 2012

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