Photo Exhibit :: Heights of Observation

The Photographs of Vittorio Sella (1859 – 1943)

September 9 – November 8, 2010
Panopticon Gallery of Photography, Boston MA 02215
Free Admission

Vittorio Sella began his photographic career in 1879 walking out his front door to climb and photograph the nearby Alps. His home was in Biella, Italy, and his camera was an 11x14 large-format field camera through which he captured his earliest images onto wet plate collodion glass negatives.

It sounds fairly simple; it was anything but. The hikes from his home to Alpine peaks took hours, the camera was big and cumbersome, and the glass plates were both heavy and fragile. He designed his own backpack to carry camera, plates and chemicals.

In the early years, he had to set up a darkroom tent on the mountain so that he could coat the plates with light sensitive emulsion just prior to exposure. The earliest ascended peaks were fairly direct; gradually the peaks that Sella sought out became more and more difficult to climb, with numerous hazards, including weather and visibility, adding to the challenge of photographing them.

Sella’s photography demanded that he be a world-class mountaineer, which he was. Predecessors within his family offered him training – both photographic and Alpine – enabling Vittorio to accomplish what he set out to photograph. His father had written the first treatise on photography in Italy. His grandfather, uncles and father were all skilled alpinists. Vittorio Sella took these skills to new levels and pursued his photographic 

This exhibition, curated by Tony Decaneas, highlights a selection of photographs taken by Vittorio Sella and serves as a prelude to a major traveling exhibition. Sella was a consummate photographer who photographed the mountains he climbed as well as the flora, fauna, people and architecture that he encountered along the way. The scope of his vision was unlimited. His photographic record has been largely preserved in his 
hometown of Biella, Italy.

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