Re-Imagining the Story of Mount Rosalie
To Name a Mountain by Spanish photographer Alfonso Almendros is a dark and intimate representation of a story that deals with the power lying in the natural world and the poetic realm of painting.
In the spring of 1863, the landscape-painter Albert Bierstadt began his second tour across the Rocky Mountains with his friend, the American writer Fitz Hugh Ludlow.
The story says that during their expedition, the painter was taken aback by the view of an enormous mountain. Immediately, he made a sketch where a dark grey storm crosses an imaginary horizon of gigantic peaks blown out of proportion. Bierstadt titled his painting A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, in honour of his travelling companion’s wife. The work was interpreted as a representation of his emotional anguish and the mountain, unnamed until that date, was named Mount Rosalie, in honour of the woman that Bierstadt secretly loved.
Most critics thought Mount Rosalie was impossibly high. The painting and Bierstadt’s work seem to talk about desire, but always through the excess and transgression of a reality that only seemed suggestive for the artist when magnified by his imagination. His idea of beauty oscillated between the sublime exaltation of his emotions and the calculated effectiveness of the forms. In light of these contradictory notions, is it not both an audacity and a frustration to try to reach a summit? Nevertheless, the purpose of naming a mountain is an act charged with poetry. It tells us about the desire of possession and permanency. It reminds us, through creation, of the memory of those we have loved.
Words and pictures by Alfonso Almendros.
Alfonso Almendros is a Spanish photographer and lecturer living in Madrid. His work has been exhibited internationally, most notably at Encontros da Imagem in Braga, the Cultural Center of Spain in Mexico, and Guernsey Photography Festival. He was awarded the 3rd Prize in the PHmuseum 2014 Photography Grant. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.
This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.