Graphic designer Janet Boschen travelled to Antarctica as an arts fellow in 1998. For much of her professional life she has been employed in the Philatelic Group of Australia Post.

Each year, Australia Post releases a stamp issue for the Australian Antarctic Territory. In the late 1980s Janet was assigned to work on designs for a joint issue between Australia and the (then) USSR on the subject of scientific cooperation in the Antarctic. This sparked her continuing interest in Antarctica and her desire to see it for herself.

Janet has designed a number of Australian Antarctic Territory stamps since her 1998 Antarctic Arts Fellowship.

Antarctic impression

The Antarctic is a visual delight. It is so clear and uncluttered that it is difficult to get any sense of perspective or distance. The landscape overwhelms all. Even the wildlife seem visually insignificant. I had never seen so many colours and shades of blue. Green is almost non-existent.

The experience of going to the Antarctic was a great inspiration, especially for my work in stamp design. It was such a rare privilege, and an undoubted highlight in my career.

Antarctic penguins

At Mawson and Davis we went on bird-watching expeditions. The Emperor Penguin and the Adélie are the only two species of penguin that live in the Australian Antarctic Territory. I wanted the stamps to capture the natural, uninhibited and enchanting characteristics I had seen these birds display.

The designs are made up of several photographs, some of which I had taken. It was quite a challenge to photograph in subzero temperatures. I had to take into consideration all sorts of factors relating to the exceptional environment. Lithium batteries freeze, so I used traditional (SLR) cameras. I just hoped that the film would not freeze and snap during winding, as can sometimes happen, and took extra care that once back indoors, condensation and humidity did not destroy the camera.

Australians in the Antarctic 1901–2001

A major undertaking after my return was the design of a sheetlet of 20 stamps that tell the story of 100 years of Australian activity in the Antarctic. The stamps encompass the major historical, material and cultural aspects of human activity there. Each stamp tells its own story, but is also part of a continuing narrative across the century. In a first for Australian stamps, text was printed on the back of each stamp describing the images.

I wanted to create the atmosphere of the Antarctic — the isolation, the unbelievable silence, vast space and solitude that are so remarkable, especially for a first-time expeditioner.

In the overall design I have contrasted cold blue colours against white, symbolising snow and blizzards and portraying the vast cleanness that so struck me.