Pioneering Photographers: Vittorio Sella

None less than Ansel Adams said that Vittorio Sella’s photographs inspired “religious awe”. 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.


NONE LESS THAN ANSEL ADAMS said that Vittorio Sella’s photographs inspired “religious awe”. 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.

Sella passed away in 1943. His work is represented in the States by Panopticon Gallery. You can also see a stunning collection of his images in the books Summit : Vittorio Sella : Mountaineer and Photographer : The Years 1879-1909 and Frozen in Time: The Mountain Photography of Vittorio Sella.

Ice caves above Mrjelen Glacial Lake on the Aletsch Glacier, July 1884

Moraine Lake on the Baltoro Glacier above Urdukas, 1909

Chardon Glacier, 1888

Glacier Blanc, Grand Sagne and Ecrins, Alps, 1888

Matterhorn and Monte Rosa from Grandes Murailles Pass, September 1887

Cimon Della Pala, Dolomite Mountains, Italy, August 1891

Summit of the Siniolchun seen from Zemu Glacier, Sikkim, 1899

Baltoro Glacier, K2 in background, 1909

Broad Peak, Godwin Austen Glacier, 1909

Jannu, Nepal, 1899

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
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Showing 2 comments
  • Anthony - Motojournalism.com
    Reply

    Jeez, that’s incredible considering the equipment he would have had to take and the chemical process of the wet-plate collodion. He would have had to carry the chemicals with him too, cyanide etc…
    Here’s a video of the process, imagine doing that on the side of a mountain in the wind…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyf8fQOdvDs

    Not just the big camera and wooden tripod, but think how much an 11″x14″ box of glass would weigh!

  • mike d.
    Reply

    what an incredible feat of human capability. people these days complain about their boot heaters not working, haha. these guys were the real deal. truly amazing accomplishments

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