Skiers sliding down the slopes in the northern Italian resort of Kronplatz this season have a new reason to stop off between one steep run and another – other than a well-deserved schnapps. Lumen, South Tyrol’s Museum of Mountain Photography, has just opened in a restored cablecar building at an altitude of 2,200m. The four-floor, snow-white exhibition space overlooks the Puster valley and was designed by Bruneck-based architect Gerhard Mahlknecht.
From salt and albumen prints of historic alpine expeditions to scenic modern-day shots of the peaks, the photography on show explores the area’s deep relationship with its mountains via a sideways angle. Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, the majestic landscape of the Dolomites is a conspicuous (and picture-perfect) presence, but the photos within frame this landscape in the context of the Alpine region’s history and politics. Vintage shots by Joseph Tairraz, Jules Beck and Italy’s own alpinist-cum-photographer Vittorio Sella are paired with digital installations including a dazzling mirror room where images are reflected onto the floor for an immersive, optical-illusion effect.
As part of its programme, the museum will involve photographers directly through talks and debates and is also set to create its own archive. All temporary exhibitions will zoom in on contemporary photographers – and use their work as an opportunity to portray the effects that climate change is having on the fragile ecosystem of the Dolomites and its glaciers.
Part of the permanent exhibition is – rather predictably – dedicated to the region’s most famous alpinist, Reinhold Messner – whose own mountain-themed museum stands on a nearby peak. Lumen’s best feature, however, comes in the shape of a private darkroom soon to be used in workshops for budding high-altitude photographers.
Despite Lumen’s somewhat isolated location, creative director Manfred Schweigkofler is confident 80,000 visitors will ski up to its doors in its first year alone. “The museum took over three years [to build] but, with the support of our partners, we were able to create a one-of-a kind institution,” he says. Acclaimed chef Norbert Niederkofler’s AlpiNN restaurant, housed within the space, will also help draw crowds to this summit. “I know all my local producers by name,” says Niederkofler. “We are fully dependent on season and weather conditions.” In line with Lumen’s mission, his cuisine is focused on making the most of this sometimes harsh and unforgiving –but always fascinating terrain.