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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Roger Härtl

All my life I have enjoyed the outdoors, travelling and exploring places unknown to me. This is reflected in my growing collection which includes literature on mountaineering and 19th and 20th century exploration and photography. Here I would like to focus on work done at the intersection between the age of exploration and modern photography in the late 19th and the early/mid 20th century.

Two influential explorers in those years combined unparalleled energy and curiosity in geographic exploration with passion and mastery in writing and photography. Vittorio Sella (1859-1943) was a photographer and mountaineer from Italy. Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003) was a British writer and explorer. Both were romantics of sorts. They admired the cultures they visited and the beauty of the nature they documented. They worked under the most difficult circumstances, documenting their subject with extraordinary artistry.

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Sella photograph.tif

Vittorio Sella.

Crevasses of Glacier Blanc, Grande Sagne and Les Ecrines, Alps. Negative date 1899, print date 1899. Silver Gelatin print 15.2 x 11.25".

Vittorio Sella (1859-1943) was from northern Italy. He was the leading large format, mountaineering photographer of the late 19th and early 20th century, renowned for his spectacular high altitude photographs of glaciers, peaks and valleys. Sella travelled the world, photographing in the European Alps, the Caucasus, Mt. Saint Elias (Alaska), and the Himalayan Sikkim. In the early 1900's he photographed mountains in Africa Ruwenzori ("Mountains of the Moon") and the Himalayan Karakoram.