IN THE HEART OF THE SOUTH TYROLEAN MOUNTAINS AND DOLOMITES
Between 1850 and 1882, the “founder of photogeology”, Aimé Civiale, made some 150 daguerreotypes for the French Academy of Sciences. Photography seldom served as a souvenir of personally experienced adventures in the early days. For that, photography was too expensive, too risky, and too cumbersome with the photo equipment alone weighing up to 250 kg. The first use of mountain photography in order to document an adventure trip can be traced back to July 1861. That date marks the ascent of Mont Blanc by the Bisson brothers, who took the first photograph from Mont Blanc.
Any attempts to take photographs beyond the tree line are doomed to fail due to insurmountable technical difficulties
Auguste-Rosalie Bisson traveled to Chamonix as the official royal photographer of Napoleon III, founded a studio there, and sold his mountain photographs as souvenirs. This, in turn, must have inspired Joseph Tairrez, who undertook numerous ascents of Mont Blanc as a mountain guide and photographer from 1861 to 1890. These ascents were in high demand because of the enthusiasm for Alpine tourism generated in London by Albert Richard Smith’s show about the first ascent of Mont Blanc by an Englishman.
These two men – Tairraz and Bisson – were the real pioneers of mountain photography.
Bernhard Johannes (1846–1899) from Partenkirchen, Jules Beck (1825–1904) from Strasbourg, and Vittorio Sella (1859–1943) from Biella are among the early specialists of mountain photography, who dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to the mountain and significantly stimulated the genre of mountain photography using various distinctive technical features. What they all have in common is that they were mountaineers and photographers and were the first to take pictures from an extraordinary mountain: Johannes from the Zugspitze, Beck from the Dufourspitze, and Sella from Gran Paradiso.