Vittorio Sella

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Vittorio Sella
Vittorio Sella.jpg
Vittorio Sella in 1899
Born(1859-08-28)28 August 1859
Died12 August 1943(1943-08-12) (aged 83)
Known forhis works of mountain photography
RelativesQuintino Sella (uncle)

Vittorio Sella (28 August 1859 – 12 August 1943)[1] was an Italian photographer and mountaineer, whose photographs of mountains are regarded as some of the finest ever made.[2][3]

Life and career[edit]

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,[4] and the first winter traverse of Mont Blanc.[5] He took part in several expeditions further afield, including three to the Caucasus (where a peak now bears his name),[6] to Mount Saint Elias in Alaska, to the Rwenzori in Africa,[7] 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.[5]


Sella's photograph of Siniolchu in the Himalayas, taken from the Zemu Glacier

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.[8] 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".[9] 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.[10]

Death and legacy[edit]

Sella died in Biella in 1943. His collection of photographs is now managed by the Sella Foundation (Fondazione Sella) in Biella (Vittorio Sella photographs). Some pictures of Sella are exhibited in the Museo Nazionale della Montagna "Duca degli Abruzzi" in Turin. Some of his photographs of the Rwenzori mountains are owned by Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.[11]



  1. ^ Crivellaro, Pietro (2018). "SELLA, Vittorio". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in Italian). Vol. 91.
  2. ^ Curran, Jim (1995). K2: The Story of the Savage Mountain. London: Hodder & Stoughton. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-340-66007-2. Sella is still remembered as possibly the greatest ever mountain photographer. His name is synonymous with technical perfection and aesthetic refinement.
  3. ^ "Frozen in Time: Vittorio Sella". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2008. ...described by both climbers and photographers as the greatest mountain photographs ever made
  4. ^ Kaufman, Andrew J.; Puttnam, William L. (1992). K2: The 1939 Tragedy. Mountaineers Books. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-89886-323-9.
  5. ^ a b "Frozen in Time: Vittorio Sella". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  6. ^ "Vittorio Sella". The Georgian Museum of Photography. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  7. ^ Ludwig Amadeus von Savoyen, Herzog der Abruzzen. Der Ruwenzori, Erforschung und erst Ersteigung seiner höchsten Gipfel. Leipzig, Brockhaus, 1909. Mit 190 von Vittorio Sella aufgenommenen Abbildungen, darunter 35 ganszseitige Bildern und 4 Panoramen, sowie 4 Karten.
  8. ^ Mantovani, Roberto; Diemberger, Kurt (2004). K2: Challenging the Sky. White Star Editions. pp. 41. ISBN 978-88-540-0116-9.
  9. ^ Joanna Wright and Robin Lenman, "Mountain Photography". In The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; ISBN 0-19-866271-8).
  10. ^ "Vittorio Sella". Rwenzori Abruzzi Centenary Celebrations. 2006. Archived from the original on 8 May 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  11. ^ Flowers of the Moon, Afroalpine vegetation of the Rwenzori Mountains, Schutyser S., 2007, 5 Continents Editions, ISBN 978-88-7439-423-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • Summit: Vittorio Sella: Pioneer Mountaineering Photographer, 1879–1909. Aperture Foundation, U.S., 1999, ISBN 978-0-89381-808-1