Vertical No Limit / Musée de l'Elysée / by Matthieu Gafsou

The exhibition Vertical No Limit. Mountain photography, the first of its kind, is based on the premise that photography invented the mountain landscape by revealing it to the eyes of the world. Photography is heir to a certain idea of the mountains and of the sublime, closely linked to pictorial romanticism. Until the 19th century, the mountain was considered to be “God’s country”, a cursed and surreal place, inaccessible to man. The pioneers of mountain photography revealed summits that had not yet been conquered.

With almost 300 prints on view, three quarters of which are from the Musée de l’Elysée’s collections, Daniel Girardin, chief curator at the museum and curator of the exhibition, gives pride of place to prints from every period, including many contemporary works. “The mountains and especially the European Alps are the strong point of the Musée de l’Elysée’s collections. Among the treasures form the collections exhibited here, there are plaques by Gabriel Lippmann, prints by René Burri, Emile Gos, Francis Frith, Adolphe Braun and William Donkin, as well as by contemporaries such as Balthasar Burkhard, Matthieu Gafsou, Pierre Vallet and Iris Hutegger.”

The exhibition is organized around four approaches to mountain photography:

  • scientific photography, with many prints of glaciers which helped studying rocks and became a visual documentation of geology
  • travel photography, which facilitated the sale of hundreds of prints to tourists as of the 1860s
  • mountaineering photography, revealing inaccessible mountain landscapes
  • fine-art photography

These four approaches come together as the visitor moves through the exhibition.

The exhibition reveals the formal strategies used by photographers to present the mountain: horizontality, verticality, frontality and low-angle shots or aerial views. The exhibition also highlights the techniques used by photographers: the large formats of the 19thcentury, panoramas, stereoscopic photographs and the very large digital formats used today.

To accompany the exhibition, an eponymous book will be published by the Musée de l’Elysée with Editions Noir sur Blanc. Supervised by Daniel Girardin / January 2017 / 21 x 27,2 cm, hardcover, about 250 pages, French and English versions / Price: about 50.-

25.01-30.04
Curator: Daniel Girardin