June 13, 2021

A WORLD WITH A VIEW: As Seen Through The Lens of DONATEL

By Sandra Castillo

Photographer DONATEL is on a mission and that is to capture the one, standout image that has never been seen or experienced aesthetically before. Of course, since he rarely leaves home without his camera, it is more than likely his personal agenda is well on its way to being accomplished.

For it is with this very instrument, the camera, that has allowed his exceptional talents to marinate in the still waters of his mind’s eye. Donatel is an expert in his field, deftly constructing images veiled in hues and shadows that perfectly translate into what it is he sees when he looks through the lens of his camera. Even though he has been involved with photography for nearly forty years, he considers the last two decades as the ones that have anchored his name to his craft. Donatel has gone on record as saying that the moment he “acquired a photography studio, that’s when I became a professional photographer.”

Just like so many of his constituents who view the world through the lens of a camera, Donatel has taken the long and winding road to be recognized for his art. For him, it has always been about the joy of the journey that has allowed him to witness the world and humanity at large, all from the astute perspective of the one whose camera is really an extension of his soul.

Originally from New York City, Donatel has called California home since the late ‘80s. When he was living in NYC, in the early 1970’s, he worked as a concert photographer at Madison Square Garden, where he shot concert photos of The Rolling Stones, The Who and many other legendary
musical acts. Donatel was also called in to document major sporting events, including those involving the New York Knicks basketball team. “I used to find my way to the basket, the center of the action. This is where I took the photos, which was right under the basket. I’d sit with the other professional photographers and shoot the game and be right in the middle of the action. That was the most fun and exciting part of the assignment,” said Donatel, recalling those moments he and his camera made it to the floor of the Garden.

Donatel’s current list of clients include several San Diego publications – Uptown, Gay and Lesbian Times and Buzz Magazine – corporations and real estate agencies throughout Southern California and aspiring models and actors, who seek out his services to obtain that perfect headshot. Donatel is also highly sought after to document major events around town, corporate parties, weddings and the occasional, catered blacktie affairs.

Donatel considers his mentor as the late photographer, Herb Ritts, who, sadly, passed away in 2002, and was responsible for creating many of the black-and-white, ground-breaking videos that immortalized the likes of Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and Madonna, during the early ‘90s. He is also an admirer of the master of portraiture, Richard Avedon, whose stark, edgy portraits of Andy Warhol, Judy Garland, Twiggy and Marilyn Monroe became visual templates for Donatel’s own work.

In every photographer’s career, there is usually that one, definitive moment which stands out as extraordinary. For Donatel, it was when he shot a photo of blues guitarist, BB King, during one of his concerts. As
Donatel peered through his viewfinder, he could see the performer looking right back at him. It was one of the most gratifying experiences of  Donatel’s career, as he witnessed the exchange of real emotion in
the eye contact between a living legend and lens man.

Photos: (Top to Bottom): Meet The Godfather, Beach 06, and Untitled.
For information, go to www.flickr.com/photos/donatel.

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