Following Rules: Who Said Art Was About Breaking Them?

When you are a documentary photographer who has been on the road as long as Nicolò Degiorgisyou need to establish a wall of rules to ease you back into a working routine – enter the artist’s latest project! After traveling intensively for the past three years “a bit like a gypsy,” Degiorgis stayed one month in one place in order to catch up on three years of overdue projects (and here I thought having last week’s work hanging over me was bad). The result was not only the completion of books of his photographs but also a whole new art installation: thirty rules that he created for the thirty days while finishing his project books. I was lucky enough to catch the traveling artist while he was in Berlin exhibiting his work at IMPERIAL Club (Friedrichstraße 101)​. As someone who cannot stick to any self-imposed rules, I was intrigued by the unusual guidelines he created for working. In Nicolò's world you can run with scissors or covet your neighbor's ox, but you have to “Glitter Above Dooming Clouds,” “Frame Art Not Fame” and be “Divine as a Bovine”—now these are rules which I can actually get my head around.

Rules To Live By

Artparasites: Were you able to stick to and follow the rules?

Nicolò Degiorgis: I followed them like rules should be followed. It’s good to have rules and that brings a lot of discipline to the work which you sometimes need if you are in the chaos with traveling and jobs and blah blah – but with some exceptions.

APs: Have you ever broken any memorable rules?

ND: As a photo journalist, sometimes you need to sneak into places. I did at the beginning. I faked a press pass to do the first of my works in China, but that’s something I learned it's better not to do in a country like China.

Rules with a twist: beware the deathly honey. Some of Nicolo Degiorgis' working rules. Photo: Chris Phillips

APs: You travel a lot, so what is home for you?

ND: Home, I suppose, is where the family is [Bolzano, Italy]. At least in my case. And I have a studio there and also some friends so that’s another thing that binds you to the place you come from. It’s about finding a balance between traveling and staying at home. I decided not to be based in a big city like Berlin or New York where usually people stay to do this kind of job. I decided to stay more at home and I feel more inspired there, actually.

"Alpini," A contemporary essay on South Tyrol, Italy, 2011-2012. Photo courtesy of the artist

APs: What is it about home that you find inspiring?

ND: I wouldn’t say home, as home makes it very small geographically. It’s more where I come from. Most of my photographic projects are long term projects and I need time to get involved into the project and also to find a lot of the places I photograph as they are often hidden.

APs: How do you find them?

ND: Randomly by getting lost.

"Hidden Islam," Islamic makeshift places of worship in north-east Italy, 2009-2012. Photo courtesy of the artist

APs: What was your first camera?

ND: It’s something I don’t really remember. I remember from my father that I broke a camera when i was a kid – a very small camera that used microfilm and he got really pissed off. I don’t remember exactly the first pictures I took but remember that I broke another camera on a school trip. I asked my father if I could bring it and after I managed to convince him I don’t think the film ever got developed, and I don’t know where the camera ended up being.

APs: How did you get into photography? Was it your father’s camera?

ND: I was fascinated by it. We always had an SLR camera around the house. My father grew up in an age when SLR cameras got really advanced and cheap and at that time everybody was buying a camera. So he had that and he had loads of talent, from what I saw so he taught me the basic stuff and I was always fascinated by the simple object and later on I just picked it up; I am self-taught so just  started learning by doing.

Despite his worldly ways, there remains something authentic and down to earth about Nicolò which makes you feel immediately comfortable with him. With no gallery representation nor pricing for his works and a self-taught photographic talent, Nicolò is a fresh breeze of real creativity and personality which emanates from the sometimes whacky rules he imposed upon his work.

Article by Frances Cragg