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Life in the Blenio Valley, Switzerland in the early 1900s Through these Spectacular Historical Photos

Roberto Donetta was a genius Swiss photographer and portraitist. He learned photography from the sculptor Dionigi Sorgesa. He also taught him the basics and gave him the camera. He made a living as a traveling photographer and seed salesman, and he left behind nearly 5,000 glass plates that were preserved merely by chance after he passed away. Donetta became a unique chronicler, at the same time a master of his medium and a free experimenter, over a period of 30 years and in an era of significant change. The following pictures capture the archaic lives of his compatriots in the The Blenio Valley, which was at the time totally isolated, as well as the gradual advance of modernism sensitively and expressively. His photographs portray children, families, wedding couples, professionals, hard-working women, men, and the photographer himself – with wit and poignancy.

Donetta’s economic problems forced him to rely on public (communal) assistance. On his death, the Commune of Corzoneso auctioned off the few belongings previously owned by the photographer in order, in part, to retrieve the money spent for his maintenance. Although his household goods were sold, his photographic plates found no buyers, so the Commune became the material’s owner.

#1 Female workers in front of the chocolate factory Cima Norma, Dangio-Torre

Female workers in front of the chocolate factory Cima Norma, Dangio-Torre

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#2 Family portrait, Bleniotal

Family portrait, Bleniotal

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#3 In Sonntagsgewand: men in the Torre village come together for bowling

In Sonntagsgewand: men in the Torre village come together for bowling

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A Vintage fashion Guide to in 1940&...
A Vintage fashion Guide to in 1940's

#4 Basket maker, Bleniotal

Basket maker, Bleniotal

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#5 Family portrait, Bleniotal

Family portrait, Bleniotal

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#6 Group portrait, Bleniotal

Group portrait, Bleniotal

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#7 Group of musicians in front of a building, Bleniotal

Group of musicians in front of a building, Bleniotal

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#8 Group of men, Bleniotal

Group of men, Bleniotal

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#9 Three girls in the break from work in the fields under a tree

Three girls in the break from work in the fields under a tree

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#10

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#11 Humoristic scene, Bleniotal

Humoristic scene, Bleniotal

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#12 Four children in leaves, Bleniotal

Four children in leaves, Bleniotal

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#13 A chef in Bleniotal

A chef in Bleniotal

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#14 Boy and girl

Boy and girl

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#15 Children with toys, Bleniotal

Children with toys, Bleniotal

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#16 Roberto and Linda Donetta with their children Brigida and Saulle, 1905-1910

Roberto and Linda Donetta with their children Brigida and Saulle, 1905-1910

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#17 A wedding couple staged in front of a cloth

A wedding couple staged in front of a cloth

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#18 Portrait of a Boy, Bleniotal

Portrait of a Boy, Bleniotal

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#19 Killing of a pig, Bleniotal

Killing of a pig, Bleniotal

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#20 Family portrait, Bleniotal

Family portrait, Bleniotal

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#21 Portrait of a woman

Portrait of a woman

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#22 Portrait of a man

Portrait of a man

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#23 Portrait of Cesarina Andreazzi Lazzari, Bleniotal

Portrait of Cesarina Andreazzi Lazzari, Bleniotal

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#24 Self-portrait of Roberto Donetta with hat and a photo album in hand, in front of a wall, Bleniotal

Self-portrait of Roberto Donetta with hat and a photo album in hand, in front of a wall, Bleniotal

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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