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Brief

A centenary exhibition

Mount Everest holds a revered status in the public psyche. It’s cruel, deathly and not fit for human survival. And yet it is beautiful, majestic and utterly fascinating. The Western world’s fascination with Everest skyrocketed after the first European organised attempts to explore the highest Himalaya in the early 1920s by George Mallory and Andrew ‘Sandy’ Irvine.

We are working with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) on a new exhibition that marks the centenary of these expeditions. Our team are helping to shape the exhibition’s core narrative and oversee the design and delivery. The exhibition will tell this well-known story from an entirely new angle – through the work of filmmaker Captain John Noel.

Image: Royal Geographical Society


Context

Making Noel’s films the star attraction

The Mount Everest Committee, set up by the Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club and based in London, were instrumental in the planning and execution of the expeditions. Following the success of the first expedition, the Committee decided to use the latest equipment to photograph the landscape and people. Captain John Noel was brought onboard to document the trips. He was an enterprising filmmaker who pioneered expeditionary film. Seizing the commercial opportunity, Noel produced, promoted, distributed and toured his films, showing the West some of the first moving images of Tibet. Noel almost single-handedly cemented the image of Everest and the Himalayan people in the public imagination.

Images: Royal Geographical Society


Narrative

Reframing the dominant narrative

The exhibition will take visitors behind Noel’s camera to explore the wider context of the expeditions. Through his films, we will help to reframe the dominant narrative of the 1920s expeditions. We will move away from tales of Mallory’s final ascent and the subcontext of imperial hero worship. Instead, our story will be one that takes into account the role of local knowledge and resource, re-evaluates the politics that helped facilitate the climbs and reassesses the making and commercialisation of the films.

The Everest centenary exhibition will go on display at the Society in London from early October 2022 to January 2023.


Partner

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)