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Paolo Raeli
Photography Paolo Raeli

How many times can you fall in and out of love?

Photographer Paolo Raeli captures lustful and loved up friends in a series of images that feel like a lucid dream

Paolo Raeli’s photographs are like one long lucid dream, each image moving irrevocably into the next. His work has arisen from not just a place of creativity, but one of fear, explaining, “Memory is temporary, so I’m going to document youth, my own and that of my friends before I forget it”, adding that this interest in photography derives from a “fear of forgetting.” His attention to detail comes through in the close crops – the silhouette of clouds in the sky, red love bites on the neck of his best friend, and drops of rain on a taxi window. Whether shooting personal or commercial work, Sicilian photographer Raeli approaches all aspects of his work in the same way: on a Nikon D800 with a 24mm lens, usually at what he refers to as “the blue hour when the light is soft,” each image drifting in a state of continuum from episode to episode.

“How many times can you fall in and out of love? And, when it’s all over, which it so often is, what next?” – Paolo Raeli

Coldly lit, cutting and candid – his images give way to a very familiar experience of modern relationships: the fact that things often just don’t work out. Using friends and at times his own lovers as his main medium Raeli sets love and heartbreak, memory and rumination, pleasure and pain up as binaries in an attempt to highlight the multifaceted nature of our relationships. It is a recurring theme, that can be realised with just one look at the young creative’s Instagram account, which veers from dreamy skies to distress with skill and ease to form a body of work that is very much ongoing.

“I’d describe my style as quite offhand and nostalgic. I guess I try to pick out the emotional heights in people’s relationships and personalities,” he says. His work does take a controlled approach too, in that his subjects know they are being photographed: “I ask my friends if I can take their picture. I’m trying to see how they react to me in a given situation, be that a happy moment or a sad one.” Pairing these images alongside autobiographical lines of poetry (I think kissing is the most pure and raw form of physical contact there could ever be / Sex is intimate, sure, but you can have sex with anyone), Raeli documents the sexual and emotional shift of those closest to him as they live through love. He asks, “how many times can you fall in and out of love? And, when it’s all over, which it so often is, what next?” He continues: “it’s a celebration of both the highs and the lows. I’m keen to show the good, the bad and the very gritty realities of the relationships we keep.”