Vittorio Sella (28 August 1859 – 12 August 1943) was an Italian photographer and mountaineer, who took photographs of mountains which are regarded as some of the finest ever made.
Sella was born in Biella in the foothills of the Alps and acquired his interest in Alpinism from his uncle, Quintino Sella. He made a number of significant climbs in the Alps, including the first winter ascents of the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, and the first winter traverse of Mont Blanc.
He took part in several expeditions further afield, including three to the Caucasus (where a peak now bears his name), to Mount Saint Elias in Alaska, to the Rwenzori in Africa, and the 1909 expedition to K2 and the Karakoram. The latter three expeditions were in the company of Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi.
Sella continued to climb into his old age, and made his last attempt on the Matterhorn at seventy six. The attempt failed when one of his guides was injured in an accident.
Western Spur of Gasherbrum, Karakoram, Pakistan
The high quality of Sella’s photography was in part due to his use of 30×40 cm photographic plates, in spite of the difficulty of carrying bulky and fragile equipment into remote places. He had to invent equipment, including modified pack saddles and rucksacks, to allow these particularly large glass plates to be transported safely.
Mount Stanley (5109 m), Uganda, 1906
His photographs were widely published and exhibited, and highly praised; Ansel Adams, who saw thirty-one that Sella had presented to the US Sierra Club, said they inspired «a definitely religious awe». Many of the photographs he took were of mountains which had not been previously recorded and so have historical as well as artistic significance; for example by recording the retreat of glaciers in the Rwenzori mountains in Central Africa.
From the Italian side of The Matterhorn (4478 m), July 29, 1882
Sella died in Biella in 1943. His collection of photographs is now managed by the Sella Foundation (Fondazione Sella) in Biella. Some pictures of Sella are exhibited in the Museo Nazionale della Montagna «Duca degli Abruzzi» in Turin.
Enjoy some of Vittorio Sella’s historic photos in the following slideshow:
Two men on the Karagom Glacier, Caucasus, 1890
Traversing the Hitchcock Glacier on the return from Mount Saint Elias, Alaska, 1897
The Matterhorn and Monte Rosa as seen from the Grandes Murailles Pass, September 18, 1887
The Duke of Abruzzi and guides climbing through the Chogolisa Icefall, 1909
Telephoto of the summit of Siniolchun, taken from the Zemu Glacier, Sikkim, 1899
Telephoto of the summit of Jannu at sunset, Nepal, 1899
Panorama of Baltoro Glacier with Mitre Peak, Mustagh Tower and K2 in the background, 1909
Mustagh tower 7273m, Baltoro glacier, Karakoram, 1909
Moraine Lake on the Baltoro Glacier above Urdukas, 1909
Kochtan Tau 5145m, north side, Caucase
Kochtan Tau 5145m, Dychtau 5204m, Shkara 5184m, north summit of Ushba 4710 m (right limit of the picture), taken from Elbrouz 5629m
Karagan Glacier, Russia, 1909
Kanchinjinga (8597m) surrounded by clouds after heavy snowfall, September-October 1899
K2 with Balti Porters on the Godwin Austen Glacier, Karakoram, 1909
K2 from the Southern Ridge of Staircase Peak, 1909
Ice caves above the Mrjelen Glacial Lake on the Aletsch Glacier, Alps, 1884
Highest peak of the Rouies as seen from the Chardon Glacier, August 3, 1888
Highest peak of the Cimon Della Pala, Dolomites, August 26, 1891
From the Italian side of The Matterhorn, 4482m. 29 July 1882
From the Italian side of The Matterhorn, 4482m, 29 July 1882
From one of the summits of Mt Forno (3262m), 1887
Crevasse on the Aletsch Glacier, Alps, July 18, 1884
Crevasse on Glacier Blanc, Grand Sagne and Ecrins, Alps , August 13, 1888
Climbers Descending Hoffman Route, Gross Glockner, 1893
Chogolisa (Bride Peak) 7654m, Godwin Austen glacier, Karakoram. 1909
Camp below the West Face of K2, Karakoram, June 1909
Camp below Broad Peak on the Godwin Austen Glacier, 1909
Baksan Valley, Mts Giuguturly - Chad Koshtantau, Dichtau, Shkara, Adyl valley, Mtns Dongusoren, Ushba, Leila - Gora, Ciubikevi, Otur, Soanezia, etc.. Cone dell'Elbruz East, 5000m, August 19, 1889
Approaching Punta Alessandra, 1906
Allalinhorn taken from Alphubeljoch, August, 3 1887
Aiguilles de Blaitière, Grépon, Grand Charmoz