Photographer's life work on display at Melbourne auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 22nd August, 2019

English-born climber, explorer and photographer Alfred Gregory (1913-2010) undoubtedly received his first big break when in 1953 he was chosen as a climbing member of the British team, led by John Hunt, to scale Mount Everest.

The team reached 8500 metres in support of Sir Edmund Hillary-Norgay Tenzig’s historic first successful summit attempt.

Gregory was official stills photographer for the expedition – leading to several more mountain climbs during the 1950s, including Rolwaling and Gauri Shankar massif in Nepal where 19 new peaks were conquered and a plane table survey conducted, and to Ana Dablam.

He also led expeditions to Distigal Sar, Karakoram in Pakistan and to the Cordillera Blanca in Peru.

Art always inspired Gregory, particularly Japanese prints and the works of Hokusai and Hiroshige’s use of colour and shapes on a two-dimensional canvas.

However, he loved working in black and white and felt strongly that colour pictures should not be black and white images with added colour. Instead the colour needed to be used creatively.

A professional photographer for more than 50 years, Gregory loved shooting people of the world and, for him, mountains were merely a backdrop to their lives.

From 12pm Monday August 26, auction goers and collectors will be able to glimpse his life’s work at Gibson’s Auctions “Alfred Gregory A Life in Photography” sale in association with Source Photographica at 885-889 High Street, Armadale.

Perhaps the most collectable and valuable of his works for auction feature the 1953 conquest of Mount Everest, particularly lot 134 which shows Tenzing nearing 8500 metres, lot 136 (the base camp), lot 137 (Hillary and Tenzing at 8500 metres) and lot 135 (a Gregory self-portrait).

Another interesting photograph is a portrait of Norgay Tenzing (lot 118), while lot 115 shows a Sherpa with oxygen tanks.

Lot 104 is an interesting shot of expedition members crossing the big crevasse at the entrance to Western CWM on a horizontal ladder and lot 172 features a porter on the  icefall.

Outside the Mount Everest photographs are interesting shots of life through the lens in Blackpool and memories of his trip to Peru, among other pictures he took on the many photographic assignments he carried out worldwide for published photo essays.

Good examples are lot 6 – ladies in curlers on public deck chairs –  and lot 231, a Peruvian man in front of three violins on a wall.

Gregory worked for 20 years as a freelance for Kodak UK, presenting up to 60 lectures illustrated with Kodachrome transparencies each winter throughout Britain and Europe.

His work has been exhibited throughout Britain, Europe, America, Africa and Australia – and his photographs are held in both galleries and private collections.

In 1996, Gregory and his wife Sue, also a photographer, moved to Australia where he became an Australian citizen.

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