Roberto Donetta (1865-1932) from Ticino is one of Swiss photography’s great outsiders. He managed to make a living as a travelling photographer and seed salesman, and upon his death left almost 5,000 glass plates which were preserved merely by chance. These capture the archaic life of his compatriots in the Valle di Blenio, which at the time was totally isolated, and the gradual advent of modernism in a precise and sensitive way.
Over a period of 30 years and in an era of great change, Donetta became a unique chronicler who at the same time saw himself as an artist who – self-taught – experimented freely and knew how to master his medium. His pictures are penetrating and humorous, cheerful and deadly serious – be they of children, families, wedding couples, professional people, the harsh everyday-life of women and men, or of the photographer himself. Valle di Blenio as a microcosm: with Donetta the mountain valley becomes the stage for a great Theater of the World.