Photographer Interview: Daniel Donnarumma

Daniel Donnarumma and I have followed each other for a bit now, and I always love to see his landscapes and exploration photos cross my feed. Based out of Rochester, New York, Daniel shares lots of his travel and nature work on his @danieldonnarumma Tumblr blog and Instagram account.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Dan Donnarumma. I live in Rochester, NY, but I’m originally from NYC. I’m a photographer, Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai practitioner, adventurer, lover of music, art, and films, as well as animals (especially greyhounds, sloths, and cats), a dreamer, a nerd, and someone that wants to travel the world. For a living, I work at a non-profit that works with employed or unemployed individuals assisting them with finding work or training.

How did you get started in photography?

I’ve always had a strong affinity for photography ever since I was little kid. When I was in high school, I’d regularly buy Kodak disposable cameras to basically document my time hanging with friends, going to punk and hardcore shows, and being idiots. I still have a bunch of my photo albums from this time, and it’s always cool to look back on them.

As I got older, and my interest in photography grew, I bought myself a Canon DSLR and eventually figured out how to work it properly. At first, I thought that I’d automatically take amazing photos just because I had a DSLR. When I quickly realized that wasn’t the case, and that I’d have to actually learn how to properly compose a photo, use the camera, etc., I started reading photography books, studying the work of photographers I admire, and teaching myself photography.

What do you like about your photography?

I have to say that this is a really good question, and I really had to stop and think about this for a moment. I’m constantly picking apart my photos and thinking about what I don’t like about them, that I tend to overlook what I do like about them.

One thing that I love about my photos is that they are a way for me to really express my emotions, whether it’s in the actual mood or image of the photo, or in the title of it. For me, that is very important. Photography is an outlet for me to be creative and to share with others the craziness that goes on inside my head, and that is something that I do truly love about my photos and photography in general.

Additionally, I love that my photos are a means to document my experiences, and to be able to share them with others. There’s so much beauty in this world, and my goal is to see as much of it and to share that with others. My photography has forced me to focus more on traveling and doing things that I might have found excuses not to do prior to really getting into photography, and that’s something I’m truly grateful for.

You have a nice variety to your photography subjects: landscape, urban, nature. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

First and foremost, my biggest source of inspiration is the work of other photographers. There are seriously so many amazing photographers and artists at our fingertips nowadays, that it it’s insane. I spend probably way too much time on Tumblr, but I am able to find so much phenomenal work that it’s nearly impossible not to get inspired to be creative. I’m currently crushing pretty hard on the work of Sebastiao Salgado and Theo Gosselin, and their work makes me want to drop what I’m doing, drive as far as I can, and take tons of photos a long the way.

Secondly, music is a huge source of inspiration for me. When listening to a certain band or song, I tend to get sucked in and ideas, thoughts, emotions just start flowing. I’ve been listening to the bands of Dan Barrett a shit ton lately -Have a Nice Life, Giles Corey, Black Wing – and that has really been inspiring in a way that I haven’t felt in quite sometime.

Traveling is also something that very heavily inspires me. I live in an area that is surrounded by a plethora of lakes and parks, I’m a few hours away from the Adirondacks and Canada, so it’s hard not to think about wanting to see everything this area has to offer and not want to photograph all of it.

Fill in blank: “For me, a camera is my way to…”

Express my thoughts and emotions, and an outlet to share my experiences with others.

What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

Lately, especially with some of the titles of my photos, I’ve tended to focus on more sullen or melancholy emotions. Those are emotions that I sometimes struggle with, and I tend to find myself drawing on that with my photos. Additionally, I do try to instill a sense of yearning or a desire to just adventure and experience life, because that’s something that I still really aspire to do, and it’s something that has exponentially become important to me as I’ve gotten older. Ultimately, though, if a photo of mine is able to elicit any kind of emotion in someone who’s viewing it, than that to me is the icing on the cake.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

As of right now, I’m planning on traveling through the Midwest for a month this coming summer, and I can’t even begin to express my excitement. I’m really looking forward to documenting those travels, as well as just getting to spend some time in the national parks out there.

I’ve recently started to explore a few projects that I’m really excited about. Both projects involve my fiancee, because she’s awesome and puts up with being my model for me. The first one is my attempt to focus on the freedom that travel provides, the lasting memories that they create, and how that may affect us. Secondly, I’ve started taking more portraits of my fiancee and I, since she’s my partner in crime, and I can’t imagine traveling without her. My photos, more often than not, tended to focus on places that I had experienced, but very rarely on the people that I got to experience them with. Since she’s practically always my travel buddy, I want to focus more on how she and I get to experience new places together.

Catch more of Daniel Donnarumma at @danieldonnarumma and Instagram account.