Explorations in Film with Photographer Robert O'Donnell

He dreamt of being a war photographer, slowly worked his way into it, and eventually took a change of heart by wanting to become something bigger. For he wanted to see the world, to become an explorer. Someone who wants the see the enormous circle and with that, capture them in photographs.

He’s working on that now and as time passes, he is able to produce gorgeous results. But his results are not just outputs you’d look at. These are results with stories telling various happenings from the soul, embedded into someone’s life for maybe forever.

We’re glad that we were able to find this young man who, with film photography and his weapon of choice — the Lomography CN 400 film — has marked stories into film photographs. We are pleased to introduce photographer Robert O’Donnell. Read our interview with him and be inspired of his explorations! Enjoy!

Name: Robert O’Donnell
Location: Sarajevo, Bosna I Hercegovina
Website/Portfolio: http://absoluteelsewhere.tumblr.com, http://www.behance.net/robertodonnell
Current camera shelf: Yashica FX-3 Super (with 50mm 2.0), Yashica Copal MXV, Polaroid Impulse, Canon 5D Mark I

Hello Robert! Thank you again for having this interview with us! For starters, please tell us something about yourself… What do you do for a living? What are your interests?

My name is Robert, I am 23 years old and I am a photographer currently based in Sarajevo, Bosnia. I got a degree at the Italian Institute of Photography, in Milan, last year. After that I worked for a press agency for a while and it was awesome because I published on some of the major newspapers in Italy. Great experience! Anyway, I was not satisfied because my dream was to travel and to become a war/documentary photographer, so I packed everything important and I just left, with ideas in my head. And now, here I am! When I am not shooting I really enjoy cinematography, video art, experimental music, literature, plus I love to watch the roofs of the cities.

Superb portraiture!

We stumbled upon your amazing Tumblr page, http://absoluteelsewhere.tumblr.com and was instantly amazed with your film photographs! They have this random feel and look we just adore. Can you tell us
more about this?

One of my heroes is a woman, a Swiss explorer named Isabelle Eberhard. I started my Tumblr [page] the day I left Italy because I wanted to confront with my favourite Eberhard statement: “For those who know the value of and exquisite taste of solitary freedom (for one is only free when alone), the act of leaving is the bravest and most beautiful of all.” When I read it I was totally blown away… I loved this idea. I’ve always traveled alone and I considered leaving Italy as a way to learn a lot of stuff about myself, the world, and also to live like in my childhood dream: as an explorer! The photos I post on my Tumblr are actually most of the photos I take from different projects, different feelings. I like to think that if you scroll from the first photo to the last you can see the different stages of being a stranger, a foreigner.

How long have you been doing film photography? Do you work with digital photography, too?

I started thinking of being a war photographer when I was younger, but I never had a camera and I never took photos. I started five years ago, with a digital reflex and I was focused on it. But I was not satisfied, I didn’t feel the passion, you know, the fire. There was something wrong, lacking. At first I thought it was my fault (and it surely was) and [it made me] really sad. But then I found film photography and I started testing different kind of films, different formats, different ways, slowly, taking my time. Now I feel like that one was the most beautiful choice I’ve ever made.

One of my first impressions of Bosnia.
Hussein is a man I met randomly in Sarajevo. I loved his aspect immediately, then I spent time with him until I could shoot.
IFOR: What remains?
Study shoot from a project about a mall.This mall is situated underground and it is very representative of the Bosnian culture nowadays.
From the series “Sarajevo Derives From Saraj." Buildings and numbers. Living in a totalitarism. After years.

We saw that you have also held various exhibitions in Italy, can you tell us more about them? How about the last one you had?

Yep! I managed to exhibit several of my earlier projects. Living in Milan, I was obsessed with urban concepts, settings and feelings, and most of all with black and white photography. “Have You Passed Through This Night” for instance, is the result of endless nights I spent driving alone in my car, in silence. “Static” was the consequence of living in a suburban neighborhood of Milan. I felt quite alone, and I felt night as a companion, somewhere I could hide in. Every night I left my flat for a walk, then I started to bring my camera with me. My last one was my starting line into video making: I made a series of experimental videos named “Continuum” and I really enjoyed it! This experience brought me to collaborate with my friend and sound designer Marco Monti and we released and published a dvd/ep under the name Horses Die Standing. We’re still working hard and probably next fall we are going to release the second one!

Continuum. No Station Here.

As we’ve discussed, you have this project in which you used the Lomography CN400 film, right? Please tell us more about this project.

Since [I arrived here] in Sarajevo, I’ve never shot with my digital camera. This is because I feel a great distance between what I did before leaving, and what I’m doing now. I’m only shooting in analogue and working on two “main” projects: the first one is “Nigdje” that in Bosnian language means “Nowhere” in which I am dealing with [some] young expat people here, trying to represent how does it feels to expatriate, to leave everything behind, to build another comfort zone, to leave everything behind and just to go away. I’m really involved in this, and I can’t wait to finish it!

The other one is about young Bosnian artists based in Sarajevo. Once, Sarajevo was considered the cultural city of the Balkans, but nowadays it doesn’t seem to be it anymore. I’m trying to investigate and to take photos of young painters, sculptors, writers.. i’m meeting tons of beautiful people with beautiful stories. I want to focus on young people because that’s the world I belong to, I love to talk with them, to share moments, to know them.

Why did you choose the said Lomography film? How was your experience with it?

I was totally new to color: I shot digital until I left. But even if I never shot projects, I started testing films way before. After a lot of testing I chose the Lomography CN 400 because it is a really versatile and comfortable film for what I do. ISO 400 gives me the opportunity to shoot quite in every light situation and that’s a big deal becauseoften I don’t know where I will be shooting and this gives me the tranquillity to focus on the subject. In addiction, I think that this kind of film has really beautiful tones on the skin. Love it!

Film photographs from Robert’s “Nigdje” series. All shot using the Lomography CN 400 film.

At Ela’s.
At the supermarket.

What are your future plans? Any upcoming projects, exhibitions? What should we look out for?

Woah, the future is complicated. I’m thinking about publishing Nigdje as a book and I will try to send the projects I’m working on to several agencies. I would really like to join one and continue to do what I love. When Sarajevo will finish with me I would really like to move somewhere else, still focusing on young people. There are several names in my mind: Azerbaijan, Transnistria, South Ossetia, Georgia.. Still don’t know because the money I earned before leaving are covering my costs down here in Bosnia.. But I’m determined, and a dreamer. At least dreams are free. Probably in a couple of months I will be documenting Ajvatovica, the biggest islamic pilgrimage in Europe. Can’t wait!

Any tips you can share to our fellow film photographers?

Wow, I was really not ready for this, because I am still learning every day and every day. But I found out a thing that helped me a lot. Photography is not just about what you see, it is also about what you are, what you feel in relation with the things you see. Just find your fire, your very very passion and go for it! If you really need to take photographs, you will find a way! And most of all, have fun doing it!

Lastly, please share a song you live by. A favorite song, maybe. Why?

Drove Through Ghosts To Get Here by 65daysofstatic. They are my favourite band and I really really love the song title because it means a lot to me. My interpretation is that you have strong motivations to get wherever you are because nothing actually has sense in the world, unless the sense you give to it.

Thank you, Robert! Follow Robert’s Tumblr page and get a dose of his brilliant film photographs!

written by mayeemayee on 2013-05-04 in #lifestyle #videos #robert-o-donnell #photographer #interview #absolute-elsewhere #community-coop

More Interesting Articles

  • Andrew Yung, Red Leaves and the Petzval Lens in Japan

    written by Lomography on 2016-02-02 in #people #lomoamigos
    Andrew Yung, Red Leaves and the Petzval Lens in Japan

    AllionZ member Andrew Yung loves to explore the mountains with friends. As a backpacker, he has already traveled to 53 countries. He took the Petzval 85 lens to Japan and photographed scenes peppered with paprika-colored leaves.

  • Pushing Boundaries: Multiple Exposing Film Soup

    written by Amber Valentine on 2015-04-21 in #world #tipster
    Pushing Boundaries: Multiple Exposing Film Soup

    As you may have read in my previous article, I truly fell in love with Lomography when I combined my Fisheye camera with an old Canon AE-1 for magical photographic results. Last summer, I took so many pictures of flowers that it started to become almost boring for me. My waning interest and the coming winter meant that I had to figure out something else to do with my 35mm film.

  • A Salute to the Masters: Rugby (A Tribute to Robert Doisneau)

    written by sirio174 on 2015-06-06 in #world #lifestyle
    A Salute to the Masters: Rugby (A Tribute to Robert Doisneau)

    This is a tribute to one of the most famous French social and street photographers, Robert Doisneau. During his life he was able to capture many little moments of everyday Parisian life with humanity and grace. His photos, full of poetry and humor, tell the ordinary life in the suburbs of the big French capital, away from the richest central areas of the city. Read more after the jump!

  • Shop News

    Lomo LC-A+ Russian Lens

    Lomo LC-A+ Russian Lens

    A true Lomographic gem, the Lomo LC-A+ RL is blessed with good looks and bursting with experimental potential. Get ready to shoot amazing Lomographic photos by experimenting with MX shots, long exposures and a whole range of accessories!

  • A Salute to the Masters: D-Day in Como? (A Tribute to Robert Capa)

    written by sirio174 on 2015-07-04 in #world #lifestyle
    A Salute to the Masters: D-Day in Como? (A Tribute to Robert Capa)

    This article is dedicated to one of the most important masters of photography, Robert Capa. Capa is well known for his photos of war, from the famous image of the Republican Spanish soldier collapsing backwards after being fatally shot to his images taken in Indochina. He was also a co-founder of the famous Magnum Photo Agency, the first cooperative agency for freelance photographers worldwide. For this article, I took advantage of a rare event held in my city, Como, some weeks ago: a military drill for civil protection purposes.

  • Petzval Amigo: Ellie Smith

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-03-07 in #people #lomoamigos
    Petzval Amigo: Ellie Smith

    Ellie Smith is a London-based fashion and portrait photographer with a real talent for taking simple and beautiful portraits. Recently, she took the Petzval Art Lens to the streets of East London to capture some urban shots. Read on for the full interview and see her striking photographs.

  • Scott Brasher Chases Fashion in the Streets of New York with the Petzval Lens

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-03-09 in #people #lomoamigos
    Scott Brasher Chases Fashion in the Streets of New York with the Petzval Lens

    Scott Brasher is a fashion street photographer based in New York City. His work has been featured on many media outlets while working with brands like Cover Girl, MTV, Reebok, and Target, among many others. But before this, Scott started shooting in the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, capturing its daily urban fashion. Last month, he took the Petzval Lens to the streets of New York to photograph scenes at the famous New York Fashion Week.

  • Shop News



    The most incredible lightpainting tool is here! Consists of 200 full color RGB LEDs in a lightweight aluminium housing will color your analogue world in different way! Create and animate different shades and shapes with the Pixelstick!

  • Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    written by Lomography on 2015-11-26 in #world #news #competitions
    Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    With an expanded field of view and its ability to produce high quality images and capture minute detail, medium format photography has become the top choice of many photographers. Lomography is working hard to make sure that it keeps going with the continued production of medium format film and cameras. The current issue of German magazine FOTO HITS focuses on medium format photography. And with this rumble, we want to prove why medium format photography is king. Take your Diana F+, Holga 120, Lubitel 166+ or the new Lomo LC-A 120 and show us your best square shots!

  • Shooting the Petzval Lens with Ian Taylor

    written by givesmehell on 2015-04-29 in #people #lomoamigos
    Shooting the Petzval Lens with Ian Taylor

    Canadian-born Ian Taylor is a full-time photographer specializing in kids and development work. It all started when his five siblings started having children at the same time he was into photography. This passion then spiraled into something amazing, and now Ian works primarily with kids, shooting them when they are in their purest form. Based in Asia, Ian has agreed to share this amazing series of photos he shot with his Petzval Art Lens in Cambodia and Thailand. He also shared with us some of his insights and views on photography.

  • Treasures Worth Saving: An Interview with Christopher Payne

    written by Lomography on 2016-02-09 in #people #locations
    Treasures Worth Saving: An Interview with Christopher Payne

    Architectural photographer Christopher Payne documents America’s industrial heritage with his large format images. For his project "Asylum," he visited 70 abandoned psychiatric hospitals across to country between 2002 and 2008.

  • Shop News

    Lomo'Instant Reykjavik Edition

    Lomo'Instant Reykjavik Edition

    The latest addition to the Lomo’Instant family! Inspired by the Icelandic midnight sky, Get endless creativity, take multiple exposed instant snapshots, experiment with long exposure and light painting shots!

  • Romain_cav is our LomoHome of the Day!

    written by lomography on 2016-02-09 in #world #news
    Romain_cav is our LomoHome of the Day!

    From everyone here in Lomography, congratulations to romain_cav for winning Home of the Day!

  • A Color Remix

    written by lomographymagazine on 2016-02-09 in #gear #lifestyle
    A Color Remix

    It's human nature to be restless and imaginative. The real may be interpreted as what one sees or how one sees something. For the daydreamer, a scene from nature transforms into a canvas. Suddenly a field makes room for chemical coloring, all those anachronistic streaks that somehow look right. Or else, those beautiful colors amplified or subdued to their most pictorial shades. All in the world of trial-and-process film photography.

  • Photo of the Day by gregoire1969

    written by lomography on 2016-02-09 in #world #news
    Photo of the Day by gregoire1969

    Let today's featured photo be a lesson on the usefulness of filters in long exposure photography.