Despite his love of Lomography, Donato Raselli (@dr_reineke) disagrees with the rule “Don’t Think, Just Shoot!”. While he understands the attitude to life behind this rule, he prefers photographs that are thoughtfully composed, with a conscious aesthetically-directed intention. He is not one to shy away from experimentation, though – this is why he develops his own film and dabbles in cross-processing. He likes the unpredictability.
Born and raised in central Switzerland, Raselli now lives in Berne, working in the management of a private archive service provider. Aside from photography, he’s passionate about writing and music—he’s an avid vinyl collector. Because traveling is not possible at this time, he and his partner are preoccupied with cooking, particularly Indian cuisine.
Who or what inspired you to take photography?
It is difficult to pinpoint the sources of inspiration for photography. The only person in my family with an active interest in it was my great-uncle, but I only have discovered his photographs recently. My family, however, has always had a keen interest in art and culture (music, painting, photography, etc.). Arts have always accompanied me – sometimes intensively, sometimes just casually.
I took my first photographs when I traveled to New York at the age of 16. My confirmation sponsor was working in New York and invited me to his place. My mother allowed me to take her analog camera on the trip. After my return, I only continued to take photographs sporadically, which is why I hardly have any pictures from my teenage years which I consider a great pity. It was only much later when I started traveling after my studies that I started taking pictures again, but with a digital camera. Finally, about 1.5 years ago, I by chance watched a photographic documentary about analog photography and realized that it could give me much more satisfaction than digital photography. The craft as well as the experimental and the artistic potential are very appealing to me. Generally, analogue inspires me more than the digital world, which – to be honest – I can hardly understand or comprehend.
I believe that I have found something in photography that allows me to express myself. Something with which I can capture and share sensations. I can experiment and be creative with cameras, films, settings, and development. Working in the analog leaves me at the mercy of chance, which has a calming effect on me. I can give a photograph a motif, a perspective, and an intuition (technical settings); the rest is not up to me. With analog photography, there is always something accidental (at least if you are not a professional and work with old cameras and expired films). The whole process loses its predictability and reminds me of my everyday life.
Ultimately, for me, photography is also a form of remembrance and of coming to terms with myself. Photographs are always taken at moments that are worthwhile – all forms of visual stimulation ranging from the beautiful to the bizarre. After capturing the visual snapshot (the memory, the moment, or feeling it represents), it is carried around in the camera, sometimes for several weeks. On the day of development, you then remember the memories, moments, or feelings that could be in the film. When the photographs are developed they are revived and re-remembered which ultimately leads to an intensification of the memories, moments, or feelings and a creative examination of what has been experienced and felt.
How would you describe your visual/photography style?
I do not really know how to describe my style. For me, it is basically important that my photographs - I take photographs of everything that somehow attracts my attention - are of the highest possible quality and harmonious in their design (both within the limits of my technical abilities). I also try to ensure that there is an aesthetic intention behind every photograph and that the motifs are very clearly recognizable. In a nutshell, I like it when a photograph is kept very simple.
With this in mind, and despite my love of Lomography, I disagree with the rule "Don't Think, Just Shoot!“. Although I understand the attitude to life behind this rule, it doesn’t work for me. That doesn't mean that I don't like the curiosities of my old cameras and expired films, on the contrary; but I prefer photographs with a conscious aesthetically directed intention.
Last but not least I am obviously in a color mode.
Among your photos in your Lomohome, which one are you most proud of?
This is a difficult question because I only publish pictures which I am fond of. But I really like this one here: Although I most likely did not make any serious technical mistake – maybe a bit underexposed –, the use of expired film, the fantastic Werra-matic (a GDR pearl), and the cross-processing of course made the image look “almost” like an Andy Warhol painting (for me).
You take a lot of nature and landscape photographs. How do you make it work during a time like this?
Yeah, that's right. Many of my photographs show landscapes, which is probably due to my current lifestyle. I would like to take more pictures of people, but my friends live more or less withdrawn in their families or are scattered all over the country. We are no longer socially engaging every weekend like we used to when we have been younger. Furthermore, I only upload very few of the existing portraits to my Lomohome, because many of my friends are not infinitely happy about having their pictures on the internet, which I absolutely understand and respect. This background leads to the fact that I publish almost only landscape photographs in the broadest sense.
Taking (landscape) photographs during the pandemic is not so easy, because you cannot or should not make large excursions. The pandemic forces you to take a closer look at your familiar surroundings. It is always easy to find motifs in a foreign place, but it is a nice challenge to search for good motives within the familiar. That's why I travel a lot with my bicycle, listen to music and take photographs of my "living world". Furthermore, I just bought an old dentist camera (Yashica Dental Eye 2), which is predestined for macro photography. Through macro photography, the world enclosed by the pandemic suddenly becomes almost infinitely large.
It seems that you enjoy using experimental films and DIY cross-processing. What do you love about them?
As I wrote above, it is important to me that my photographs are at the highest possible technical level for me and that there is a thought behind each photo. However, I have no claim that these pictures must be realistic (like digital photography). On the contrary, I find it very nice to expose myself to chance and to see photography as an experiment. The old cameras and the expired films are not always working predictable and lead to the arbitrariness that I cherish. That is my personal “Lomography-Feeling”. This is the main reason why I develop my own films and use techniques like cross-processing which adds another layer of unpredictability.
Perhaps this is my visual/photography style(or technique): to capture what I feel is beautiful as photography, to learn and execute the best possible technique (crafting the picture), and to finally give up this control again, to leave it to chance (old camera, expired film, development process).
To see more of Donato Raselli's photographs, visit his LomoHome.