This photographer from Zermatt captures the beauty of the mountains in his adoptive home, the High Valais – a childhood dream nearly thwarted by his upbringing.
As a child, Leander Wenger loved taking photos. That was back in the late sixties and early seventies. Armed with a humble camera and a reel of colour film - although he can’t quite remember where it came from - the young boy would immortalise the village of Ernem where he lived, in Goms (Upper Valais), along with its people and the beautiful nature surrounding them. But when the young teenager dared to utter his dream of becoming a professional photographer one day, his chalet-building parents and the adults in his midst jolted him back to their idea of reality: “You can’t make a living from that!”. And so Leander put his dreams on the back burner and ended up working in a bank in Zurich.
A passion for photography rekindled in the Himalayas
Fast forward forty years, and Herr Wenger is now one of Zermatt’s eight professional photographers. To balance his passion and the so-called “real life” he was once told about, the 55-year-old also works as an accountant at a local 4-star hotel. The rest of the time he spends shooting chalet interiors, or else pulls on his trekking boots to head off in search of beautiful light. “What I love most about photography is being in the right place at the right time to capture a moment forever. Subtly changing light and shadows, which often occur very early in the morning or at the end of the day, means I might have to go to the same place ten times to get the perfect shot, but I love it!”. It’s no coincidence that landscapes, and mountain scenery in particular, account for most of Leander Wenger’s pictures, as that’s how he ended up rekindling his passion for photography. As a keen mountaineer, Wenger set off on an expedition to the Himalayas in his early thirties. The Leica M he’d taken with him was stolen at Kathmandu airport. But it turned out for the best; on his return, he bought one of the first digital cameras on the market and picked up his favourite childhood pastime again. He started out slowly, but gradually gained speed working for various clients. In the meantime, the experienced globetrotter settled in Zermatt so he “could do as much skiing and mountaineering as possible”. Races at high altitude nurtured his taste for beauty and nature and soon had him clicking away.
The Matterhorn craze: frustrating but fruitful
The Matterhorn naturally plays an important role in the photographer’s work. “Partly because I like it, but also because they are the photos my clients invariably end up choosing”, says Leander with a wry smile betraying a hint of frustration. His own penchant is for another mountain - hardly any less famous - the Monte Rosa. Leander Wenger loves and fears the prestigious summits surrounding Zermatt in equal measure. A few years ago, they took the life of his friend before his eyes during a rockfall. He has since stopped climbing, but still skis and treks. After a long silence, he concludes: “What I find amazing about photography, is capturing a moment of grace that will never happen again.” Perhaps like that moment so long ago when he told adults of his dream to become a photographer, hoping to find encouragement.