Background: Antarctica
Porter was summering on Great Spruce Head Island in 1973 when a representative of the National Science Foundation (NSF) called to ask him to apply for an NSF-sponsored visit to Antarctica. The NSF was seeking artists, musicians, and writers to document their impressions for an exhibition designed to publicize their work in the region. Excited about the opportunity, Porter applied; after an anxious wait, he was selected. In November 1974 he travelled on the NSF research vessel Hero down the South American coast to the continent by way of the Drake Passage. The Hero visited Elephant, Wiencke, and Anvers Islands before Porter dislocated a shoulder after trying to jump from a rubber boat to Deception Island in a choppy sea. That accident forced him to return home prematurely. But he returned to Antarctica in November 1975, stopping first in New Zealand, before traveling to the other side of the continent at McMurdo Sound. After photographing the whales and penguins in the sound, he flew to the South Pole. Porter then crossed the Transantarctic Mountains and joined the Hero at Palmer Station on Anvers Island for several more excursions. In 1978 E. P. Dutton published Antarctica, mixing the artist's photographs with his extensive travelogue.

Porter initially expected to be captivated by the challenge of making color photographs of essentially white scenery. Yet, even before reaching the mainland, he reveled in the region's diverse array of color, especially its blues. His printer of the period, Jim Bones, has suggested that Porter's Antarctic work represents his "blue period." The artist photographed many characteristic geological formations of the continent and a wide range of animals, including colonies of chinstrap, adélie and emperor penguins, seals, and whales. In deference to his age and the continent's difficult working conditions, he used a 35mm camera for much of this work. The collection holds 596 Antarctica prints.

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