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Meet Eric Raeber, a Photographer Who Never Stops Experimenting

My name is Eric Raeber. As a young boy I always felt an urge to take things apart and understand how they work. It does occasionally still happen!

I have long been fascinated by electronics, which naturally led me to a profession in engineering. In parallel, at a very young age already I developed a passion for photography.

Long before internet connected us, I photographed for the school newspaper, spent nights in the darkroom and went on photo errands with my high school buddies. This also led me to win a few local contests in Switzerland.

Here is an image I realized in 1990 for a contest on the theme “Your Switzerland”. Those were years when immigration of Tamil refugees in Switzerland was a source of significant polemics.

Eric Raeber Votre Suisse

“Votre Suisse” © Eric Raeber 1990
Halogen work lamp through umbrella as key light
Halogen work lamp as rim light
Desk lamp against the background

During a summer, I had the chance of doing an internship with a swiss studio photographer, Rainer Sohlbank. This taught me two things.

First it made me understand the essentials of lighting, which came as a perfect complement to my core interest in conceptual photography. Second it convinced me to make photography my hobby rather than my profession, which allowed me to follow my artistic inspiration.

Back then I shot monochrome film with 500 watts halogen lights. Which was fortunate because it avoided having to deal with color temperature. I have since upgraded my equipment a number of times, but equipment is secondary and my path to growth has remained the same over the years: learning and growing through exploration.

I experiment with Light

I recently mentored a lighting class and when one of the students had some difficulties lighting a pepper grinder, I decided to take on the challenge to do it with the simplest and most affordable setup I could come up with: a single speedlite.

As I did not have a pepper grinder I mocked it with a toilet paper roll and a metallic bowl. I wanted a black background with a rim light reflecting off the bowl. This was achieved by a sheet of white paper bent into a tunnel.

A speedlite judiciously placed behind my subject and hidden from the camera provided the specular reflection I needed on the bowl. You can see how the rim light varies, depending on how far I placed the bowl into that tunnel.

Eric Raeber Behind the Pepper Grinder

 

“Behind the Pepper Grinder” © Eric Raeber 2014
YN-560EX speedlite with diffuser
Camera… Not really relevant

I experiment with Technology

I love to try out new things and create images that have not been done before. I invent and experiment. One such experimentation resulted in my collection “Gravity Zero”.

Eric Raeber Gravity Zero - Bed of Rice

 

“Gravity Zero – Bed of Rice” © Eric Raeber 2014
Two Einstein E640, softboxes

To achieve the sense of weightlessness, I started by throwing objects into the air or letting them fall. However, I rapidly realized that light objects such as flowers are difficult to control and I needed a more repeatable mechanism, which is why I undertook building a more reliable way of throwing objects into the air: a catapult! Here is a video showing that device in action:

I experiment with People

When I started photographing people I had them pose. I would ask them to act happy, sad, surprised. This rarely leads to natural expression, because the person is self-conscious of the pose. Instead, I now experiment with stories. I immerse people in a set-up situation, which leads to more candid and natural looking images that tell a story.

Eric Raeber The Secret

 

“The Secret” © Eric Raeber 2012
With the Thorne family

The other aspect that is still playing a significant role in my growth is working with models. They will take the time and have the patience to iterate in the creation of an image, while family and friends rarely have the patience.

Without patience you will more often than not take a picture, rather than create a photograph.

I experiment with Concepts

Finally, all of the above explorations make up the toolbox of my fine art portraiture. Those tools allow me to translate into images the concepts I come up with.

Eric Raeber My last sunshine

 

“My last sunshine” © Eric Raeber 2014
Model: Caitlyn Slavitch

You will see in my portfolio many concepts, that range for darkness to fairy tale and from editorial to surnatural.

Ideas for those concepts can start from a conversation with my client, or through humor with a friends. An ordinary object will inspire me, when I imagine it in an unusual location or an uncommon usage.

Inspiration is found in everyday’s life, when experienced from different angles.

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