Erminio Sella

Erminio Sella, fotografia di Vittorio Sella











Date of birth: 1865-07-20

Died: 1948-03-05

Place of birth: Biella, San Gerolamo

Died: Biella, San Gerolamo

Related archive: SELLA, ERMINIO

Son of Giuseppe Venanzio, industrialist, chemist and keen Biellese photographer, and of Clementina Mosca Riatel, Erminio graduated in 1887 in Engineering at the University of Turin and later specialised in Meteorological Sciences at the University of Berlin. Important for his education and for the acquisition of photographic techniques was his father’s book, Il Plico del fotografo – first edition in 1856and his mountaineering experiences with his brother Vittorio, such as the first winter crossing of Mont Blanc in 1888, of Monte Rosa in 1889 and the geographical expedition to Central Caucasus.

In 1898 Erminio organised an expedition to Alaska in search of gold. On 19 May, with his brother-in-law Edgardo Gaia and employees Bissetta, Bianchetto and Ceria, he arrived in Seattle where he boarded the schooner Jane Gray, headed for the Yukon basin, from where they would head towards the centre of the Klondike; this destination was never reached on account of the shipwreck of the Jane Gray, when 36 people died, including Gaia and Bissetta. Obliged to return Seattle, Erminio made a lengthy journey along the east coast of the USA visiting the main parks of the region, the wide landscapes of the prairies and the newly established towns. From Seattle he went to Lake Washington, climbed Mount Rainer, crossed the entire state of Washington, reached Oregon and finally California. He travelled through the Yosemite Valley, Nevada, stopped in Yellowstone Park, then continued to Montana and Wyoming, before arriving in New York, where he embarked for the return voyage. During this trip he took 300 photographs.

In 1899 he travelled to India and the island of Ceylon (today Sri Lanka), where he photographed Hindu and Muslim monuments, the extensive botanical gardens and the daily life of the native people.

In 1902 he visited the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama where he documented the construction of the Canal.

Following a trip to Sardinia, Erminio, his brother Vittorio and brother-in-law Edgardo Mosca, founded the “Sella & Mosca” winery in Alghero in 1902. Having reclaimed the land in the area they established the “I Piani” estate, with modern wine-growing equipment and specialised viticulture. The “Sella & Mosca” farm marked the beginning of the agricultural modernisation of the area. For the success he achieved with this business Erminio was made “Cavaliere del Lavoro”* in 1922. He also took photographs on the subject of wine-growing and the grape harvest as well as others documenting the traditions, customs and beautiful landscapes of Sardinia. In 1913 Erminio accompanied the Biellese entrepreneur Riccardo Gualino to Russian Ukraine – where the latter had established a company for the exportation and trade of timber – and here too he produced about a hundred pictures. Erminio died in Biella on 5 March 1948.

* An honorary title similar to the British OBE