Vittorio Sella (1859-1943) was born in Biella on the 20th of August 1859 from Giuseppe Venanzio Sella and Clementina Mosca Riatel. The father, an industrialist and scientist published “the plico of the photographer” in 1856. It was the first treatise on technical photography published in Italy. After the death of the father, the young Vittorio gets the materials of the father and continues with the experiments both chemical and photographic. The interest for photography mixes with the interest for the mountains, passion that was transmitted to him by the uncle Quintino Sella, once Prime Minister of Italy and founder of CAI (Italian Alpine Club).

After the military service and more than ten year of activity within the family industry, Vittorio starts climbing the Alps and takes wonderful photographs with a 30×40 centimeters format. In 1882 he gets married to Linda and the couple will get four children.
In 1889, 1890, and 1896 he organizes expeditions in the Central Caucasus. The documentation he gets will owe him the Cross of St. Anne from the Tzar Nicholas II and the the price “Murchison” from the Royal Geographical Society of London.
In 1899 together with the English climber Douglas Freshfield and his brother Erminio he climbs the Kanchenjunga in Sikkim. He accompanies the Duke of Abruzzi to the Alaska (Mount Elia) expedition in 1897, in Uganda (Mount Rwenzori) in 1906 and in Pakistan (Karakorum) in 1909.
It was Sella who first recorded the landscape, plants and people of the Rwenzori in extensive and intimate detail, and to whom we refer for clarity of the historical record and pure artistic beauty. It is particularly interesting to note how far the glaciers of the Rwenzori have receded since these photographs were taken, nearly 90 years ago.
Sella presents his photos in national and international exhibitions including at the annual Alpine Club of London. He receives innumerable prices and certificates meanwhile his photography’s tour the world over. His photos are in high demand for publication of books, maps itineraries and paths, he becomes a point of reference for mountain climbers, photographers, geographers with whom Vittorio entertains an intense correspondence. In the course of his life he never abandons mountaineering. At the age of 76 he climbs the Cervino but he does not reach the peak due to an accident occurred to his guide. He dies in Biella in 1943 at the age of 84.

The Sella Foundation

The photography of Vittorio Sella composed by a huge documentation of thousand of negatives and original printings are today preserved at the Sella Foundation. This is located in Biella, the home town of Vittorio, in the Piedmont Region, surrounded by Alpine mountain range in the North West of Italy. Apart from preservation, the Foundation is an important actor in setting exhibitions in Italy and all over the world and it is inexhaustible source of materials for writers, photographers, researchers and mountaineers. It is exactly located within the structure of the ancient and well known wool factory of the Sella family and it is headed today by Lodovico Sella, a descendant of Vittorio.

Fondazione Sella, Via Corradino Sella 10, 13900 Biella Italy,
Tel. +39 015 2522445,

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