Change: an interview with Nicola Bertellotti

For a good while, I’ve been interested in places that are changing. As you know, I wrote my latest book (“L’Atlante dell’Insolito”) on this topic and I’ve dedicated some parts of this site to the same field. As a matter of fact, in recent years I noticed that many of my travels had a common thread that made them an involuntary collection: Change. I visited cities, monuments, countries and I investigated animals that were or are disappearing, and I explored them to try to understand what had gone wrong and how they were evolving.

I’m not the only one who has this passion, this interest.
For years, I have been following the work of those who, like me, are interested in understanding and communicating Change.

One of these artists is Nicola Bertellotti. His photographs are simply exceptional: they are strange, poetic. They convey an incredible sense of kindness and Nicola’s travels remind me that beauty and dignity are still out there, even in places where everything seems to have faded away.

I interviewed him some days ago. Like everything else at present, our conversation took place in the “virtual” world. With the hope that one day we could really meet and talk about it all over a glass of good wine, I decided to share our words with you too to accompany you on an unusual journey.

This article is, therefore, an invitation to travel, because the more you see the world, the more you understand that there is splendour out there even where we would not expect it; Nicola’s stories tell how even the industrial areas of the world can be a treasure box filled with history and can, therefore, lead us back to where it all began.

They are circular tales, the conclusion of which is a return to a beginning where Nature is sometimes left alone and takes over again, and where everything is connected. If an element of the chain that unites us skips the rhythm, the echo and the effects will reach all the other blocks of the sequence.

First of all, here you can see his photographs:

And now, here’s our dialogue.

Question: How did the photograph find you? Are you self-taught?

I’m completely self-taught. I learnt what I know now by making mistakes over and over again in the field. It all started with the desire to better document my travels, without any ambition.

Question: Many of your photographic projects show Nature’s resilience and kindness. I particularly like the series you called Ex Machina. The power of Nature in the midst of these huge industrial areas reminds me once and again that Nature forgives us. She comes back, in the end. Also, some of the photographs remind me of Detroit. The same goes for Restitution. If you could share a couple of destinations in these 2 series that have remained particularly in you over the years, which one would you choose and why?

As for Ex Machina, I would definitely choose the cooling tower (in the series there are examples scattered throughout Europe), a typical element of the industrial areas located on the outskirts of large cities. These bold structures are extremely monotonous in architecture; we are aware of their presence; however, we classify them as boring and uninteresting. The interior of the towers instead offers unexpected and imposing panoramas; the more they belong to the past, the more visions they seem from a dystopian future.

When it comes to Restitution, I would like to mention the wonderful Terme del Corallo, which represent one of the most significant architectures of the city of Livorno. The work is greatly affected by the Art Nouveau influences of the early 20th century and is now reduced to poor conditions after decades of neglect.

Question: I find the amusement parks and cinemas to be very fascinating, so much so that once I went to the other side of the world to see one in the desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas (the place is called Lake Dolores, but this is another story!). Can you tell me more about your Festival series? How did you come up with it?

As a child, I spent many afternoons in a dilapidated amusement park near my house. I lost myself in the magic of those merry-go-arounds, which looked so worn-out and rusty. A long time later, I stumbled upon a ruined amusement park by chance and the sense of wonder of when I was 8 years old reappeared. The Festival series and my “journey” in abandonment were born.

Question: how do you find out about these changing places?

The Internet is the main source. Research is one of the phases of my work that I love most, I feel like the protagonist of an adventurous treasure hunt and the geographical coordinates tell me where to dig. Then, it seldom happens that I come upon something interesting while I’m heading to a place I already have on my map. In that case, it is real serendipity.

Question: When you go to photograph them, are you alone or do you have assistants? (No, I’m not offering myself as an assistant, don’t worry – I’d be more an obstacle than anything else!).

I have often explored alone, even abroad. Lately, a friend has been accompanying me in these explorations.

Question: I imagine that some of these places are in Italy, while others are abroad. I can identify some of them because I have been there too, or I dream of going there in the future. What does travelling mean to you? Do you have a definition you want to share with my readers?

I’d like to quote exactly the writer Nicolas Bouvier, who’s always been a great source of inspiration for me. He said: “You must not travel to decorate yourself on exoticism and anecdotes like a Christmas tree, but for the road to impoverish you, drain you, soak you out …”.

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