Montagne Magique Mystique

08.05.2021
26.09.2021

Trésors des collections suisses de photographie

When it was invented in the 19th century, photography was a technique that required not only mastery of physics and chemistry, but also some degree of artistry. In 1840, the year following the advent of photography, the first photographers, often self-taught, set up their darkrooms in the midst of Alpine landscapes. While their techniques could not reproduce the colours of the world, the ‘black-and-white’ rendering of light and shadow nevertheless took the form of a language that photographers enjoyed developing, and by the turn of the century, it had evolved into a highly refined aesthetic.

Many photographs were taken on the high peaks during the first century of photography, (1840-1940). From Auguste-Rosalie Bisson to Albert Steiner, through the recently discovered images of Rudolf Elber, Montagne Magique Mystique bears witness to the enthusiasm of photographers for the mountains. Many travelled to the Alps, while some were attracted to other remote regions: Vittorio Sella ventured to the Himalayas and Alaska; Ansel Adams worked in California; Knud Knudsen focused on Norway; Samuel Bourne travelled extensively in India. Although many photographs have undoubtedly disappeared over time, thousands of prints have survived, often thanks to the diligent work of alpine clubs, museums, libraries and private collectors, who are themselves passionate about mountains and their imagery. As for the mountaineers, they not only photographed profusely; some also collected images from other photographers, bringing back images from other imposing summits.

Focusing on the first 100 years of the history of photography, the MBAL’s research brings together more than 200 prints, many of which have never been shown to the public. To produce this unique exhibition, the museum has collaborated with eighteen Swiss public and private collections.

In addition, this programme announces the 6th edition of the contemporary photography festival Alt. +1000, which will take place in the Brévine valley in September 2021. To complete this exhibition devoted to landscape, the MBAL is publishing an unpublished text by the philosopher Emanuele Coccia, author of the remarkable essays “La Vie des Plantes” and “Metamorphoses”.

The exhibition is made possible by generous loans from numerous public and private collections in Switzerland. The exhibition is curated by William A. Ewing in collaboration with Nathalie Herschdorfer, Director of the MBAL.

Bibliothèque de la Ville de la Chaux-de-Fonds · Bibliothèque nationale, Berne · Collection Daniel Schwartz · Collection Doy Young et Gaudenz F. Domenig · Collection Nicolas Crispini · Collection Richard de Tscharner · Collection Thomas Walther · Fondation Auer Ory, Hermance · Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur · Médiathèque du Valais, Martigny · Musée Alpin Suisse, Berne · Musée d’art et d’histoire Neuchâtel · Musée gruérien, Bulle · Musée national suisse, Zurich · Musée suisse de l’appareil photographique, Vevey · Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano · Zentralbibliothek, Soleure

The exhibition was supported by the Fondation Le Cèdre, the Fondation Philanthropique Famille Sandoz and the Contrôle des Métaux Précieux.