An Interview With: Rossella Castello

Who are you and where did you study?

My name is Rossella Castello and I hold a BA in Photographic Arts achieved at University of Westminster, London.

What is your artist statement for the body of work “Sonder“?

My journey started in the area of Soho, London, beginning with Violet, an 89 year old lady. 

I asked her to pose for me while having her picture taken, this short-lived moment has been frozen through the medium of photography. This simple connection of taking a portrait is what has enabled me to establish an authentic connection with her. 

Consequently, I started seeing her on a daily basis, chatting, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes together. 

Whilst spending time with her, she introduced me to four other individuals, each one of them has subsequently led me to somebody else, creating an exponential effect. 

With no artistic plan or expectation, I stepped into this photographic journey not even questioning myself where exactly I would have arrived. It is necessary to say that, while these subjects were strangers to me, I was an outsider myself in their lives, who was then invited to join their community.

Your ability to compose such complex images as well as implementing colour is amazing, where do you think this comes from?

I consider my characters as really ‘raw’ and very intricate at the same time. I believe my images are a straight, objective representation of who my characters are. In the dummy publication of the project there is an acute emphasis on colour. An example of this is manifest in the front and back endpapers, each volume in the set has an image I shot myself of a particular colour that reoccurred frequently in that book in the sequence. For instance, in the book with the red ribbon on the cover, the endpaper is an image of lights glaring off from a pinball machine and the contents of that volume is predominantly characterised by pictures with a reddish tone. 

Do you think projects like this work if you don't interact with the subjects?

Sonder is based on trust and human engagement; interacting with my subjects was therefore essential in order to make this project real. I’m normally very concerned about asking different individuals for a portrait, but whilst I was taking the photographs I pushed myself and challenged my mental boundaries and my shyness to bring this project into existence. For instance, the first time I saw Violet I was very concerned about asking her to pose, I thought she would have refused but she didn’t! She never refused to have her picture taken and this was the same for all of the individuals represented in my stories. Asking can be scary at times but it enriches the project in the long run.

To some sense you work captures the vernacular of area the subjects are in, was this intentional?

Admittedly nothing was strictly intentional, I didn’t search for an idea to base the project on but I was open to when it would reveal itself to me at some point in the journey. When I started this project I didn’t have preset expectations for what would happen but when I had accumulated enough material including some unusual characters as subjects, I came up with ideas for what I could do to present the project as a body of work. I didn’t have a predetermined intention to depict their distinct surroundings, but it happened organically when I encountered their idiosyncrasies to give the most truthful representation I could.

The series has a strong narrative leaving me wanting to know more, have you finished the project or is it on going?

This series constituted my final major project for my BA (Hons) Photography degree at University of Westminster. The project found its natural end once I saw my work realised as a physical publication. At that point I decided it was time to move onto the next project, bringing everything I learnt previously with me. From my perspective only two volumes out of the five have an open ending, so realistically I could only carry on with the two stories if I was going to.

What was the technical side to the series?

I mainly used a few different medium format cameras throughout the project - such as , but I always used natural light on site without the need for flash or other equipment. As I said before, the series of images I produced was organised and then rendered physically as a photobook, and the technical aspect of this is crucial to ensure that it functions effectively in that format. As there were five volumes, it was very important to give extra time to the editing of the sequence to make sure there is consistency throughout the publication.

Whilst shooting this project was there anything in particular you learnt?

This project helped me to open up more to those who are at first strangers. Overcoming the fear of asking for a portrait became possible when considering the worst outcome: that they decline their involvement in the project. It’s apparent that when I open up as a photographer to my potential subjects they may or may not open up too, but it’s all a set of possibilities that require the first step of interaction.

How would you like the viewer to feel in response to your work?

It’s important to me that the viewer embraces my project as if it was their own adventure, to experience what I experienced and, of course, I hope my project would encourage viewers to go out and connect with more people, to overcome any fears they might have.

What is the best piece of advice you could give the viewers of The Pupil Sphere?

To find as many excuses to take photographs as possible and imagine how an idea can be the genesis of a journey to embark on. If they are a student, I would suggest that they make the most of the facilities they have at university and experiment with a range of camera equipment to find the best fit for their practice.



Instagram: @castellorossella

All images copyright to Rossella Castello.