Nicola Ducati Talks in Depth about His Photographies, Expeditions, NFTs, Experiences & More

by Rubén Palma
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Nicola Ducati is a renowned Italian photographer, who lives in the mountains of Trentino. Ducati himself says that he arrived in the world of photography by chance. As a child he used to play with an old camera he found, and from that moment photography stuck with him. He has experimented with various photographic approaches and has dedicated himself to travel photography. His work is inspired by the passage of time and the desire to preserve the memories of those places and people that will soon give way to modernity. Ducati’s goal is to the tell stories of unknown people, physically remote but humanly close, creating empathy between the viewer and the subject, enhancing their elegance and authenticity.

You live in the middle of the beautiful Italian alps. What is life like up there?

I live in an extraordinary region that I really appreciate for the quality of life it offers, always being in contact with nature has made me grow more sensitive to the environment and the fragile beauty that composes it. A few minutes from home I have everything I need to feel good, forests and mountains, alpine lakes, clean air and silence. The awareness of this privilege, however, came over time, living in a somewhat isolated world could sometimes seem like a limit, but today especially after the pandemic, I believe that these places are for me a strength and well-being.

What is it about photography that fascinates you?

 I like that it is a versatile, personal, revealing language and in any case a generator of emotions both in those who take the photos and in those who use them. In general, I find it a motivating passion because it pushed me to be curious, to travel to distant countries, sometimes extraordinary, sometimes uncomfortable. Traveling is always good, it resizes, balances and enriches. Speaking of my way of doing photography I can say that I only portray what I like and excite me and that for me it is just as fascinating what you cannot see from the photo, the preparation of the trip, the experience, the encounters made, the sensations and the things I’ve learned. A single image fails to tell all this “behind the scenes” and this is where the other great aspect that I have come to appreciate comes from, photography is read and interpreted by the sensitivity of the observer. And it becomes emotions that cross other emotions.

You recently visited and lived with the Nenets people, in the Siberian arctic where the weather can get below -50 degrees. Tell me a little bit about that experience.

It was a photographic project to discover the deep north of the Arctic and the population that has inhabited that hostile territory for millennia, the Yamal, the land of the Nenets is a once pristine ice peninsula which today faces numerous environmental challenges. and cultural.
It was an extraordinary adventure that puts a primordial world before your eyes, you understand that the force of life does not stop even in the face of impossible temperatures, man’s ability to adapt and adapt the territory to his needs has of the unbelievable. The Nenets people have an extreme lifestyle for us, they live in symbiosis and balance with their great wealth represented by the reindeer and are tangled to the territory that hosts them and to the animist traditions that guide their daily life. We lived with them for about ten days as privileged observers of a human and cultural dimension which, thanks to modernity that devours everything quickly, will very soon remain only in anthropology books.

Back in 2021 you entered the NFT Space by launching your “ordnary” collection on OpenSea and Rarible. What is your opinion about NFTs and how they have changed the game for artists?

For the moment is more than anything else an experiment that aims to understand this new technology. I observe that in the traditional world of art there is a lot of excitement but also a lot of confusion generated above all by the overflow of projects that are sometimes not supported by a real artistic content but only aesthetic. Projects that ride the wave of euphoria but that do not give guarantees to the final user / collector who therefore almost assumes a role as a gambler.
In general, I think that today it is still very difficult to understand the potential of the concept of NFT, we see them applied to art because perhaps it is one of the most similar declinations, that is to make a digital certificate that represents an artistic work unique and collectible. Today the speculative aspect prevails and true innovation remains in the background. We are only at the beginning of this revolution, for now what I am observing is that many digital and 3d artists can finally have great opportunities that were precluded in the world of traditional art. When NFTs come out of the fence of the most avid insiders or nerds and more professionals who are able to mediate and guide users on valuable projects will spread more, the true potential will finally be revealed to us.

When you think back on everything you have seen and experienced while traveling. What moment brings you the most joy?

Serenity is a necessary state of mind that prepares all the senses to appreciate any journey from the simplest to the toughest. Many of the trips I take are demanding, sometimes because they are physically tiring, sometimes because we are witnessing complicated situations, cultures, people and ways of living that are very different and to be accepted for what they are. The most beautiful moment of every trip is always repeated in the evening, when you return after a busy day, just before sleeping and you have the opportunity to tell your own experiences, comment on the day, review some shots, reflect on what you have lived. and dreaming about what you will do the next day. I find it an important moment that stores in the memory those often unrepeatable experiences that then accompany you forever like those adventurous stories you read as a child.

Where do you think your curiosity comes from?

I believe that being curious is part of the behavior, I also think that parents do their part, helping or at least not hindering curiosity, school and first readings are equally fundamental. We also live in a stimulating era, with what do we have today, with the ease of traveling, access to information, the availability of a whole world on a phone screen, it is really impossible to get bored and remain passive. If we want we can learn everything that may interest us such as a recipe from the trendy chef, a new language or understand the paradox of the poor Schrödinger cat, and all this is an extraordinary food for our imagination and our dreams.

What are the most essential items you can’t travel without?

There are not so many recurring objects in my travels, leaving aside the obvious ones such as the camera, passport and toothbrush, each trip has a specific dose of difficulty and the equipment must be proportioned and chosen according to the type of adventure. I generally travel only with the essentials, few things even thinking about the unexpected. Over time and with experience, the equipment is increasingly optimized, compressed, reduced. Traveling light makes everything easier and as I said in one of the previous answers, even curiosity can never be lacking. If the journey becomes just an opportunity to take home some exotic shots to be praised on Instagram, better reflect on what we want to do when we grow up.

What camera do you use?

I have always used Nikon, for a couple of years I have gone from the reflex system to the mirrorless Z system which allows me to have a very high quality, minimum size and weight, traveling light is essential and this new generation of cameras seems made especially for traveling photographers. targeted by airlines and their increasingly restrictive baggage rules.
I use two very similar camera bodies and only two lenses. I use fixed lenses a 35mm and 85mm because I find them generally brighter. I shoot in natural light, although I have recently been evaluating the use of small LED panels as support lights when the shooting conditions are really prohibitive. A small piece of equipment that however gave me great satisfaction.

You have traveled all over the world. And i am sure you have seen some beautiful places and people, as well as horrible. What is the worst and best place you have visited? And why?

We are all used to living in relative well-being so traveling to certain countries can sometimes shake us up and requires a good deal of adaptability. With experience, I realized that it is not places that can be wonderful or terrible, but above all people who make them so. Even the most uncomfortable place becomes home when some kind hand cooks or shares something with you. On the contrary, a luxurious place can be aseptic and artificial. To try to answer, I can say that among the most beautiful places for me there are certainly the primeval forest of Amazonia, the highlands of the Afghan Pamir and the infinite skies of Mongolia. Among the saddest places I put the irrecoverable places, where the work of man has made life impossible due to pollution, delinquency or degradation, intensive exploitation and neglect for the planet. Certain frightening corners are evenly distributed between the Americas, Asia and the South of the world.

What has shocked you the most on your expeditions?

A disturbing episode that did not shock me immediately but after many years.
Southern Algeria in the late 90s, a wide tour between Tamanrasset and Djanet, between unforgettable landscapes and sunsets, pushing us into the heart of the desert in search of remote oases and abandoned villages. Our road was a dusty track sometimes traveled by trucks, sometimes by camel caravans. After days of traveling we camp in a small border village, a crossroads for refueling and water, where for one evening we can experience the luxury of eating a freshly cooked specialty, ‘mutton soup’. Sitting on an outdoor carpet under the awning of the restaurant, between the dust and the noise of the trucks heading south, we begin our dinner together with the few other local patrons, no tourists, no Westerners. We inevitably attract the attention of many curious eyes. A man dressed and with Tuareg features approaches us and questions us in perfect American English accent, eats next to us, fishing with manicured hands from a bowl of couscous, at first he asked naive and unsuspected questions about who we are, what we like to visit, from where we come. Then he moves on to questions of politics and culture, with penetrating eyes and increasingly focused questions that denoted a great culture and deep knowledge of the West. A little intimidated by so much curiosity, we cut it short and, greeting politely, we went to our cars. That evening we slept in the car, despite the fact that September 11 was just a distant, indefinite plane in someone’s criminal mind: the chronicles of recent years have then confirmed that that strange character was certainly not a simple traveler, he was there in the Algerian heart where in at that time, Saudi funding was already lurking in the sand what would happen over the years. I will never know who that man really was, maybe no one, maybe an affiliate of dark broderhoods, maybe just a conditioned thought, but for a moment that evening an omen had reached us and with the awareness of today I still shiver.

What is the best photo you have ever seen and why?

At the time of publication, McCurry’s image of the Afghan girl as well as many of his lesser-known shots was dazzling. I was quite young but I remember perfectly the emotion and admiration that aroused in me seeing that photo on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic. It was immediately obvious that it was not a simple portrait of an incredible face and gaze, it is a photo that started a photographic genre that then inspired generations of traveling photographers.
Today we are witnessing an overload of photos that flow everywhere and the danger we run is that of having eyes too tired to grasp the strength of certain images. Sooner or later I wait to see a photo again that marks the history again.

For more information about Nicola, check out his website and Instagram.

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