Nicola Bertellotti - All is violent, all is bright

The architecture of the sublime. An interview with Nicola Bertellotti

The research of Nicola Bertellotti (Pietrasanta, 1976) focuses on abandoned places consumed by time and on the ruin as a trace of a lost era. The feelings that guide the photographer are love and empathy for these spaces, nostalgia and the desire to evoke a memory.

Nicola is a self-taught photographer who creates his work paying particular attention to natural light, so as not to alter the identity of the place. 

We interviewed him to learn more about his work.

ACME – When did you start working on the theme of abandoned places?

NB – Exactly 11 years ago. It all started with the toy town of Consonno, a bizarre place abandoned for many years in the province of Lecco. The “Las Vegas of Brianza” they called it, I happened to be there by chance and I haven’t stopped since.

ACME – The abandoned places in your photographs seem somehow magical and full of history. What attracts you most about these places?

NB – I am fascinated by the aesthetics of ruins. Contended between nature and culture, suspended between destruction and reconstruction, immersed in the flow of time and stretched towards eternity, the ruin has in its ambivalence the topos of modernity.

ACME – Do you find these abandoned places by accident or are they places you already knew?

NB – Almost never by accident. The biggest job is researching the web and creating a map of my explorations. It rarely happens that I come across an interesting place on my way, while I’m headed to others I already know.

Nicola Bertellotti - Reverie
Nicola Bertellotti, Reverie, 2020. Courtesy Sensi Arte

ACME – What impresses you as soon as you enter one of these places for the first time, and what then drives you to photograph one room over another?

NB – A place devoid of human presence shifts, pushes, alters, is not as still and unchanging as we imagine, it suffers and hopes. I am interested in the epiphany of these places, their epic and their definitive disappearance. I don’t know why, but when I enter an abandoned place I lower my voice, I try to walk softly so as not to cause noise, I listen, I move as if I were in a store of precious things, careful not to touch more than I have to. It only takes me a few minutes to understand what I want to photograph, it’s a kind of instinct that has developed over the years.

Nicola Bertellotti - La causa di un disordine qualsiasi
Nicola Bertellotti, La causa di un disordine qualsiasi, 2020. Courtesy Sensi Arte
Nicola Bertellotti - L'architettura del ferro
Nicola Bertellotti, L'architettura del ferro, 2020. Courtesy Sensi Arte

ACME – What is the abandoned place that has most stuck in your memory or been the most meaningful for your work? Can you tell us why and describe it?

NB – The Noisy Castle, a Gothic manor house in the province of Namur, Belgium. I first photographed it in 2012, five years before its demolition, unfortunately it was falling apart and was too dangerous for the curious who kept sneaking in. With its blue vaults and central tower it was a magical structure and a witness to significant historical moments. Probably the most evocative place I have visited.

Nicola Bertellotti - All is violent, all is bright
Nicola Bertellotti, All is violent, all is bright, 2012. Courtesy Sensi Arte

ACME – Thinking about these ruined places, would you like them to be redeveloped or do you find them more evocative and food for thought like this?

NB – The enigma of the beauty of these desolate environments is inherent in belonging to one’s own time. I imagine the past through the discovery and knowledge of its fragments; a past that mirrors a society on which the identity of our present is based. However, there are cases in which there is a possibility of recovery and I am happy when I learn of the rescue of one of these buildings.

ACME – Do you believe, as Freud wrote in his essay Caducity (1916), that the passage of time does not diminish the beauty of an object or, in your case, a place?

NB – Absolutely. Beauty + time is exactly what moves me. The key is a certain romantic sensibility that can infuse the contemplation of modern ruins with a strong melancholic component, a poetic nostalgia for lost harmony.

Nicola Bertellotti - ritratto

Nicola Bertellotti

Nicola Bertellotti (born in 1976) lives in Pietrasanta and travels the world trying to rediscover the past glory of forgotten places. What emerges in his aesthetics is the nostalgia for paradise lost, expressed in the love for the ruins, and the re-proposition in a photographic key of decadent poetics. Self-taught, he shoots his images in natural light using a medium format digital camera.

He has exhibited in various contemporary art galleries and museums; major exhibitions include: Hic sunt dracones, Castel dell’Ovo, Naples (2016); Aftermath, Isculpture gallery, San Gimignano (2017); The Great Beauty, Pärnu Museum, Pärnu (2019); Paradiso Perduto, Estella Gallery, New Orleans (2021). His works are in several public and private collections and have appeared in prestigious magazines, including: Esquire, Arte, Artedossier, Elle Decor, Lampoon, Bild, Daily Mail, Milieu Magazine. In 2014 Petrartedizioni published Fenomenologia della fine, a catalog that brings together many of his series.