Deception Island, Antarctica
Anne Noble


Anne Noble
Deception Island, Antarctica
Production date:
Accession No:
1000 x 1190 x 30mm (framed)
Pigment print on Epsom semi-matt paper

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Acquired with assistance from the Govett-Brewster Foundation.

Anne Noble’s Deception Island, Antarctica was produced as part of her ongoing series of photographs of and about the White Continent. In contrast to the grand vistas of towering cliffs, pristine icebergs and impossibly blue water that have come to represent Antarctica in the popular imagination, Noble’s photograph contains no sparkling ice formations or azure waters. The water here is a chilly, gunmetal grey. Deception Island is a radically simple composition which, rather than demanding that the viewer stands back in admiration, invites us to look closely. In place of a fanfare of icy splendour, Noble gives the whisper of wind-driven snow.

Like many of Noble’s photographs, Deception Island unfolds slowly and quietly. The textures of snow and water become evident. The water, dimpled like shirred silk, is dusted with snow which also rises off the sloping land like steam. It is where the snow and water meet that we are reminded that the solid and liquid are two states of the same substance. In this sense, Antarctica really is a deceptive island: the apparent size of the continent doubles over winter as the surrounding seas become frozen and add to its mass.

Noble shows Antarctica as fragile and elusive. In Deception Island, the very ground appears to be dissolving away, and the scale of the landscape pictured is impossible to gauge. This shifting, chimerical nature makes Antarctica alluring to explorers, and now tourists. It is a locus of fantasy and mythology that is compelling because of its resistance to exploration, description and representation. Noble is drawn to the difficulty of picturing a place which, like a mirage, exists mostly in the imagination. With Deception Island, she creates a photograph that undermines heroic depictions of Antarctic landscapes, and suggests, perhaps, that what we seek in Antarctica may not be there at all.