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Swimming Pools (original title: Piscine);
The reason behind Swimming pools
For thirty years now, at all latitudes of our wonderful planet, I have been photographing oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, marshes, waterfalls, clouds, snow-covered areas, icebergs, glaciers. In other words, water in all of its states and the living beings protagonists of the environments it gives life to. Where there is water there is purity. The extremely pleasant sensation within it is perceivable, and it is one of the most noble ones we can actually appreciate. Therefore, I slowly ended up removing from my most significant works human beings, guilty of polluting purity in all of its forms, in the natural environments as well as in ideals, dreams, and values.
Perhaps, then, it is inevitable that in order to find a thread for our existence, I now find myself returning to photographing man in a swimming pool. This is the only liquid environment in which he is the undisputed protagonist, engaged in the last expression of absolute purity of which, according to my opinion, he is capable: the athletic act.
In Swimming pools, accomplished during the last 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome, I therefore passed from photographing the gesture of the nature to photographing the nature of the gesture. Before getting into the relevant considerations, however, I do want to point out the only photograph exhibited which reproduces a swimming pool void of people. It was impossible not to photograph it because, on the contrary of other sport stadiums, which when deserted only communicate events concerning the past, a swimming pool full of water is always a pulsing vital body. The weaves of the water or the lanes are ready at all times to transform themselves into lines on which one can write another page of exhilarating emotions, magnetic perceptions, seducing visions. They change to my eyesight according to the temporal viewpoint from which I observe them with my camera.
The Swimmers are at the starting blocks. Ready, go! I see them suspended in the air, stretching their bodies to the utmost, penetrating the water and riemerging aggressively as they start to repeat their swimming movements in an obsessive manner. Apparently they are uncapable of thinking. They seem wrapped up in a cold speechless beauty, figurative of the kind without feeling, reduced to pure aesthetic, model for growing hosts of men and women who unravel their existence diving into the monotony of acting without ideals. Humanoids.
An impossible world. The protagonists of my Photo Drawings, pure and simple photographs actually, find refuge from present day's anxieties, at times with the aid of the graphic representation of comics strokes, in a dimension at the same time dream-like and irriverent. A hand reaching out like a claw; legs fluctuating tenuously, while others contrasting in their physicality with what seems to be their own shadow, in the image depicting the falling into the water of two athletes in a competition of synchronized diving; divers' bodies suspended in the air, between reality and dream; the silhouette of a swimmer intangible like a ghost that seems to be crossing the lanes of the swimming pool transversely. Finally, the photo of the swimming pool void of people which seals the invitation to dream, encouraging the observer to penetrate such dimension.
The action of the Divers, the third series of the Swimming pool images, is instead considered absolutely human in the succession of the physicality of the movements which, owing to a tonic nakedness, finds the craved explosive carnality. A joyful carnality in open contrast with the loneliness which characterizes Swimmers reproduced in impersonal scenarios deprived of the passionate background of the terraces. This joyful carnality is supported by that of the blazing chromatisms of the spectators corroborating the indisputable human essence of the athletic act.
My perspective of reality is integrated by a further temporal viewpoint through the photographs dedicated to the lively and light elegance of Synchronized Swimming. The graceful and enchanting free diving of its interpreters, who dissolve their bodies in the liquid of the competition rectangle, shows me the way which has to be pursued in order to discover an interpretation to our lives. Such way is found by searching for a closer connection with the natural environment, from which the existence of mankind began.
I nourish my personal free diving moments by photographing it again and again, while through the viewfinder of my camera the natural element sinks into me becoming vital lymph. We are all athletes of our existence.
The photographs in this gallery refer to the concept expressed in the gallery Piscine (Swimming pools). Compared to the latter, the use of white and black emphasizes, if possible, the graphic stylization which characterizes the Swimmers and Divers series.
The Swimmers, who are less wrapped into the liquid glimmer which is present in several coloured photographs of Piscine, lose their three-dimensionality heightening the conceptual dullness of their reason for being.
On the contrary, the bodies of the Divers appear to be dancing in their carnality, prelude to the joyful encounter with the natural element which is fulfilled in the photos portraying the women athletes in the synchronized swimming.
Beauty and the Triangle
Nothing touches my emotions more than beauty. The overpowering beauty of nature allows me to reposition humanity at its correct place in the world. It is not placed at its centre, as that would be the position which decides the equilibrium, awards the merits and mankind is not well adjusted and surely not deserving of such privilege. Man is not represented in my images at this stage for the above mentioned reason and for emphasizing the need and the hope of beginning all over again his relationship with our world in a most respectful and modern way. His presence, limited to just one photo, shows it as he passes freely but cautiously at the margins of an untouched space without prejudicing the geography.
I am in no anticipation of what is new. I would be satisfied to see as much of this world as possible and learn even an infinitesimal part of what its beauty has to teach us. Perhaps this is the shortest path to obtain the wisdom we need, as we human beings are still wandering through stone age.
The triangle, symbol of human, divine and earthly nature, is the prism I have chosen to dissect the blinding beauty of the world, and quench my thirst. Every image representation of it I recreate, tries to connect us to a higher existence. This has been for me a passionate, intimate and humbling reading of who we are and the much too heavy responsibilities we carry. This has also been a small step towards what I consider progress in the twenty first century.
With The Boto, Stefano Nicolini continues his personal conversation with the natural world and reasserts his personal conceptual choice as to contemporaneity. And he does so through the penetration of the physical aspects of our world, since it is not possible to fully know and understand the human being without knowing and understanding the world. The gauntlet that the photographer seems to throw down to the current values of contemporary art in its whole, is to be identified according to the direction which should be taken by the research for innovation and the ability to surprise.
Wonder, purity, mystery, discovery, and tragedy are some of the recurring elements of Nicolini's photography which characterize The Boto.
The choice of faint images expresses the photographer's intention to respect the shy nature of botos, the pink river dolphins, confirming their air of mystery and elusiveness. Their myth is well known throughout the whole Amazon basin. Flippers and beaks vanish into the impenetrable darkness of the submerged enchanting city where they abduct young women and seduce them by taking on the appearance of fascinating men.
Thick red, bright orange, and yellow which is now pale now intense, are the tones which characterize this whole series of photographs. This reveals the photographer’s refusal to use artificial lights owing to his desire to limit, to the utmost, invading others' habitats. He therefore entrusts the assimilation of a small slice of hidden reality to perception rather than to one's gaze.
Since The Boto is a symbol of vitality and of suffering at the same time, Nicolini communicates through the evanescence of shapes and the ambivalence of chromatisms also in order to denounce the foolish slaughter fishing which some of the populations of this species undergo.
Such is the photographer's way to manifest reverence and gratitude to our world and to its unparalleled beauty.
Human and Nature Landscapes
Every photo presented in this gallery calls for silence in order to better seize the essence of the crystallized moment it depicts. Human or nature landscapes represented in a kind of sacredness which seals their uniqueness: an instant before or after would have been another story, another sensory experience. Perhaps neither better nor worse, but certainly different. For sure the care in each frame reveals the passionate search for the moment 'first among equals' which is meant to lead each human being's perception with the surrounding environment to the most sublime level.
This concept it is expanded to the interconnection with the reality which man has contributed to create. To such re-creation he will endlessly contribute making use of the ceaseless enrichment he derives from the red thread with which he should keep himself indissolubly tied to the natural world. Therefore, the photographs exhibited show how the results of anthropization never prevail over nature, but remain marvellously set within it.
Through the forms and colours of antarctic landscapes, Stefano Nicolini tries to capture the poetic but disturbing essence of the first of other worlds which will attract the attention of humanity in the near future. Following the lines of the series "Beauty and the triangle” man is not represented in the collection "Polar Abstractionisms”.
Stefano Nicolini's photography soon placed the research of “other worlds”, in the ethnologic sense of the expression, and that of other interpretations of reality side by side. These, through the use of the blurred and the out of focus effects, raise from a simple viewing level to lyrical compositions now of visual ecstasy now of denunciation.The distorted view is an invitation to read and reread the first reality, that which appears naturally to our eyes, so as to try to snatch and understand all of its aspects, thus avoiding its abuse and its real distortion.
Saltpetre Villages in the Antofagasta Desert
Saltpetre Villages in the Antofagasta Desert was realized by Stefano Nicolini in Northern Chile in 2004. Consistent with his conceptual position, the photographer keeps the human presence away from the viewfinder of his camera, not meaning that he does not look for man among the structures which man himself has built in such an inhospitable environment. On the contrary, Nicolini leaves us with the dilemma concerning his opinion towards man and the stories told in this photo gallery. He praises man's work by showing us the clean lines of architectural structures which challenge boundless spaces, more remains than ruins, emphatically lingering on constructions and infrastucture admirably survived despite decades of oblivion.
At the same time, however, he reminds us of the overcoming of nature with photos which immortalize ruined houses, skeletonized furnishings, abandonment.
An interpretative dualism which is transferred also to a stylistic level. He alternates more contrasted photographs with others in which the blinding light of the Antofagasta desert prevails, crossing the photo frame and striking the observer so as to tell him that in such a natural environment man could not prevail.
Pedro de Valdivia's smoking smokestacks, a car driving along a deserted street in Maria Elena, a wagon wandering in the bareness of the horizon, however, leave history and these photographs suspended between past and future, between dream and reality. Themes which Nicolini holds dear, thus conveying his own anxiety at the thought of leaving both the oneiric dimension and the natural element behind, replacing them with a new dimension still neither sufficiently experienced nor sufficiently pursued.
1979–1984 Attends Economics at Università La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
1974–1978 High School Istituto S. Giuseppe Villa Flaminia, Rome, Italy
Stefano Nicolini approached photography as an autodidact.
2010 Piscine, fior di campioni, Cetona (Siena), Italy
2010 Piscine (Swimming Pools), Galleria Romberg – Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy
2010 Piscine (Swimming Pools), Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice, Italy
2009 Polar Abstractionism and Beauty and the Triangle are represented by Staley Wise Gallery, New York, U.S.A.
[From 1999 to 2008 Stefano Nicolini decided to suspend personal and collective exhibitions of his works, being more interested in fully dedicating himself to photography and photojournalism.]
1998 La balena regina del mare, Centro Cultural Borges, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1996 La balena regina del mare, Piazza del Popolo Square, Rome, Italy
1983 The Micronesian Islands, Houston Gallery, New York, U.S.A.
2010 Trasparenze, MACRO - Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Rome, Italy
2010 Entre glace et neige, Centre Saint Benin, Aosta, Italy
1996 I cetacei ambasciatori del mare, exhibition travelling in the Mediterranean on board of the Amerigo Vespucci, school ship of the Italian Navy
1987 La storia di Roma, Piazza del Popolo Square, Rome, Italy
2009 Piscine (Swimming Pools), Rome, Italy
2008 Shapes and Lights of Antarctica and South Georgia
2007 Buenos Aires
2006 The Boto, Amazonian basin, Brazil
2006 People of Bahia, State of Bahia, Brazil
2006 Brazilian wilderness, Brazil
2005 Maranhao, Brazil
2005 Enchanting Libya
2005 Paleontology in Patagonia, Argentina
2005 Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile
2004 Ghost Towns of Antofagasta Desert, Chile
2004 Dwarf Minke whales, Coral Sea, Australia
2003 The Tigre Delta, The River Plate, Argentina
2003 Orkney Islands, Scotland
2001 Patagonia, Argentina
2001 Dordogne, France
2000 Monarch Butterflies, Mexico
1999 Iguacu Falls, Brazil
1999 Landscapes of San Guillermo National Park, Argentina
1996/1997 The Circumnavigation of Antarctica
1996/1997 Icebergs, Antarctica
1995 Beluga Whales and wilderness of Nunavut
1995 The last traditional whale hunters, Lembata Island, Indonesia
1995 Killer whales of Tysfjord, Norway
1994 Patagonian whales, Argentina
1993 New Zealand from the sky
1992 Tango, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1991 The last traditional narwhal hunters, Thule District, Greenland
1988 Antarctic Peninsula
1985 China, 25 years ago
2010 Entre glace et neige, Catalogue, Publisher Musumeci Editore, Italy
2009 Piscine, Catalogue, Publisher Silvana Editoriale, Italy
The images by Stefano Nicolini have been published in dozens of publications in Italy and in several other countries.