Interview with Manuello Paganelli for photokina 2018. We are delighted to showcase one of his hauntingly ‘Romania’ images. Captured on film and superbly printed on a perfectly matching Photo Rag® Baryta paper. Paganellis imagery stands in the tradition of Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Ansel Adams, the great US-American landscape photographer. What both photographers have in common you could read here.
How did you discover your passion for photography?
Photography arrived to me in a very innocent way when, during my university years in Tennessee, USA, I was training to become a medical doctor. However, towards the end, I decided that I didn’t want to become a doctor at all. Of course, my parents were not happy with that decision since they were paying the bills, and neither was I for I was quite confused and didn’t know what I wanted to do or what path to follow in life.
A short time later I bought a Canon F-1 camera as a hobby. I didn’t really know anything about photography prior to that moment since I hadn’t taken any classes.
As soon as I bought the camera I wanted to learn more about photography. I would drive to a couple of bookstores to check out any photography magazines. One of those magazines was called Darkroom, and it had Ansel Adams on the cover. I didn’t know who the old gentleman was, but I started looking at his powerful black and white images. I read that he was also trained as a classical pianist, which is what his parents wanted him to pursue. When I read that about Ansel, I felt that I had found someone who, like me, had been at a crossroads. So, I bought the magazine and brought it with me to school. Two days later I called information and they gave me his telephone number. In less than a minute after that, I was on the phone with Adams who, at the time, was living in Carmel-by-the-Sea in Northern California. That was our first conversation, with many more to come. That was the luckiest moment of my life; on that day he became my friend, teacher and mentor until he passed away in 1984.
What’s your favourite genre?
Most people are surprised when they find out that I am not a landscape photographer the same way Ansel was. In fact, after I finished a few of his assignments, he saw right away that I was mainly suited to capture the everyday life around me and the human emotions within. There is something very powerful when, as photographers, we are able to capture the faces of everyday people. We can travel to foreign lands and are given the privilege to capture the lifestyles, happiness, toils and hardships of diverse cultures in their own environment.
For what does your heart beat: analogue or digital photography?
It all depends on the projects I am working on. Most of the magazines or commercial clients I have worked for, like Time, Forbes, ESPN, Stern, Spiegel, Newsweek, People, Sports Illustrated, GQ, etc., prefer colour, and that’s when I shoot with my Leica M10 digital cameras. The colour created by digital cameras today is above and beyond what could have been achieved in the past with regular slides or colour film. Once the photograph has been taken, there is that thin line where talent takes a back seat and technology takes over, and with a tweak here and a tweak there on Photoshop or other applications, the image can easily turn into a masterpiece.
When I work on my personal projects or my Fine Art images, I prefer the satisfaction of shooting black and white film. I develop my own film and, if I have the time, try to print my own images the same way I learned it from Ansel. The beauty of shooting any kind of film is the raw purity of being able to show the photo in the same light as how we saw it the moment it was stamped on the negative.
Today, more than ever, and especially in the editorial and photojournalistic world, we must be careful how we document our world and present our photos, so its original intention is not diminished. We want our images to be able to grab the eyes and attention of others, so they can educate and open minds to the wrongdoings happening around us each day. An original, powerful photo is felt and understood in any country or language.
For those interested to know, I love shooting Kodak T-MAX 400 on my Leicas, Hasselblads, Holgas and a Horseman VH-R camera.
How would you describe your path from analogue to digital photography?
It took me a while to give up slides and colour film. It all started in 2003 when one of my assistants told me that I should consider buying a digital camera. I wasn’t too convinced, but he let me borrow one of his cameras during a few of our photo projects. I was quite afraid that whatever I had captured, which was being held inside the flat flash drive, could somehow disappear. With film, we know what is physically there, and we can see it. Due to this, I shot film primarily, with digital as a backup.
With time, as more magazine clients wanted to see the results as soon as it was shot, they started to request digital files more often. After more use with it, the simplicity and speed of digital photography became natural to me and I fell in love with it. Digital is here to stay, and any artist or photographer who wants to make it or advance in the field of photography must embrace it, as well as any new technology that may come to us in the future. When I do my photo workshops in Cuba, Romania or other parts of the world, I encourage my participants to shoot with whatever they feel comfortable. If they aren’t sure, we guide them. Some even spend most of their time with us shooting from their smartphones or iPads. I tell them that when they travel, it is important to have the right equipment, but it truly doesn’t matter if they capture a great image with the most expensive camera or with a plastic camera like a Holga that costs $30.00 or less.
One of Manuello´s images will be showcased on our photokina booth, hall 3.1, A 25 from September, 26th to 29th 2018 in Cologne. Make sure you stop by!