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Balloon shots Eduard Spelterini, aerial photographer 100 years before Google Earth

He was an adventurer, a flight pioneer, a gifted photographer: Eduard Spelterini (1852-1931) earned worldwide renown for his risky crossings of the Alps.

Born in canton St Gallen to the name Eduard Schweizer, he took balloon flights over Switzerland and many other countries between 1890 and 1910. While high up in the air, he produced bird's-eye-view photographs, which were extremely unusual at the time. There were spectacular mountain views and portraits of cities from Zurich to Cairo. As well as black-and-white photos, he produced colourised images. 

The linguistically gifted artist – who spoke fluent German, French, Italian and English – presented his photos in countless lectures throughout Europe, with great success.

Wikimedia Commons contains 120 of these photos, digitised from glass plates. The photos are part of the collection belonging to the Swiss National Library.  

(Text: Gaby Ochsenbein,

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