In this digital age, one cannot but wonder at the achievement of the valiant photographer-mountain climber 140 years ago. Jules Beck – who grew up in Biel, Berne, Vevey and Strasbourg – was the first Swiss mountain photographer to take photographs in the Alps. As of 1866 and several times a year over a period of 24 years, Beck undertook his almost 20-hour-long excursions up as far as the highest Alpine summits. It was rare that he was able to take more than a dozen successful photographs a day. The mountain weather conditions often played tricks on him, especially as in those days the new dry plates required very long exposure times.
This is the first time that the life’s work of this important photographer, a total of 1,200 photographs, is being exhibited. Beck’s photographs enchant us by their beauty and at the same time show how the alpine world has changed since his day. Beck’s humorous commentaries are a further source of delight. Atmospheric elements tangibly render both the era and the high mountains. The two figures of the “jackdaw” and the “tripod” bring the perils of photography at that time home to a younger public.