Portrait of the Matterhorn by Nenad Saljic

There are mountains, and there is the Matterhorn.

The Matterhorn (4,478 m), ds’Hore (local dialect), Cervino (Italian), Cervin (French) is the iconic symbol of the Alps, one of the world’s most magnificent and famous mountains. It was the last great Alpine peak to be climbed and its first ascent in 1865 marked the end of the golden age of alpinism. Seven men reached the summit but four died on the way back. The triumph and tragedy of this feat is the epitome of man’s desire to explore, to go beyond the limit. A reminder of how great and how small we are at the same time.

The Matterhorn towers above the town of Zermatt in the Swiss canton of Valais in the Pennine Alps. Apart from being one of the most well-known mountaineering and skiing centres, the Zermatt region is a geological phenomenon that is carved from the rocks of two continents – Africa and Europe, as well as the strata of marine sediments witnessing a long vanished ocean between them.

The Matterhorn is a product of geological processes that transcend our concept of time. It was born from the remnants of an enormous African rock mass which originated more than 250 million years ago. This mass was pushed northwards colliding with the European continental plate, forcing its way upwards and resulting in alpine folding 100 million years ago. It reached its maximum heights 30 million years ago, modeled by natural erosion from the top to the bottom, and finally acquired its characteristic pyramidal shape over the last 2.6 million years.

The Matterhorn that is rising to the sky today, although graceful and uniquely formed, is just a majestic ruin, only a fragment of an eroded mountain. It is subject to wear caused by erosion and weathering and it will eventually round off and disappear forever. In the long term, plate tectonics will finish the job. The geological clock will reset all over again and a new Matterhorn will emerge somewhere else in 50-300 million years. Will humans be around to climb those mountains?

Portrait of the Matterhorn | Nenad Saljic

About Nenad Saljic

Croatian photographer Nenad Saljic, who trained as a mountaineer and caver in his youth, is above all an artist, inspired by his love of nature’s most ancient textures, forms and shapes.

His exquisite black-and-white photography is a testament to his ability to capture nature’s essence, whether it’s his award-winning portraits of the Matterhorn, or the awe-inspiring depths of the Dalmatian caves, revealing earth’s geological history.

His current projects include three artist books: A Portrait of the Matterhorn, Petrified, which will showcase his explorations of the Dalmatian caves and The Birth of a Ship, a photographic journal recording the reproduction of an historic wooden boat.

Saljic’s passion for photography was redefined during a trekking expedition to the Himalayas: “Photography is how I see reality, it is a reflection of my emotions and my imagination, but sometimes hardly visible to the naked eye…” [Official Website]

Portrait of the Matterhorn | Nenad Saljic

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