” Sella is still remembered as possibly the greatest ever mountain photographer. His name is synonymous with technical perfection and aesthetic refinement”
(Jim Curran, K2: The Story of the Savage Mountain)
Vittorio Sella was born in 1859 in Bielle, Italy, in the shadow of the Alps, and he began climbing at an early age. He was the first to climb the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa, Italy’s highest peak, in winter and the first to traverse Mont Blanc in winter, too. That prowess enabled him to haul the bulky large-format camera and gear of the day, including the fragile 30x40cm plates upon which the image was formed. He passed away in 1943.
Sella climbed some of the world’s most mysterious, perilous peaks and photographed them, many for the first time. His strikingly elegant photographs mountains in all their offer groundbreaking scientific and documentary information as well. Climbers today still use Sella’s pictures to map out routes and to better comprehend their challenges and the magnificence to come. Through Sella’s images, we can witness the grandeur of the world’s greatest peaks; the Russian Caucasus, the Saint Elias Range in Alaska, Mount Ruwenzori in Africa, the Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas. His photographic documentation of these peaks had no precedents and has few, if any, equals.
Toting weighty camera equipment as high as 20,000 feet, the intrepid Sella managed to fulfill a double passion for the perils of climbing and the thrill of capturing the mystery of earth’s most sublime geographies.
Sella worked in all four seasons and under the most difficult circumstances, documenting the highest regions of the earth with extraordinary artistry. Ansel Adams paid tribute to Sella’s greatness in a 1946 article for the Sierra Club Bulletin when he wrote, ‘’with Sella’s sensitive insight and response the magnificence of mountains is distilled into a high order of expression’’. Sella combined an aesthetic appreciation of the grandeur of mountains inherited from the Romantics with the technological developments of the nineteenth century.
The exhibition consists of over thirty extraordinary vintage photographs plate, made between 1878 and 1909 by the acclaimed Italian alpinist-photographer. Together they demonstrate not only Sella’s skills as a mountaineer but also his ability to give a real sense of the immensity and beauty of his subjects.