JTF (just the facts): Published by Rorhof (self-published) in 2015 (here). Softcover with rubber band, 180 pages, with 90 black and white photographs. There are no texts or essays. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Comments/Context: The Italian photographer Nicoló Degiorgis became known last year for his groundbreaking photobook Hidden Islam. For that project, he photographed hidden mosques all around Italy, presenting the result in an innovative gatefold-centric format that cleverly separated inside and out.
His newest photobook project PEAK has a more straightforward concept, but it too employs a thoughtful design to amplify the power of his imagery. During the period of one year, Degiorgis photographed the Dolomites, a mountain range in the northeastern Italian Alps, close to Cadore region where he was born. The Dolomites, originally known as the “pale mountains”, have a distinct shape and are known for their color. The range reveals a plethora of glorious mountain landscape features: unusual splashes of color, sheer cliffs, vertical walls, a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys, and powerful peaks reaching for the sky. Degiorgis used to hike and camp with his parents in various European countries and his desire to be on the move and explore is reflected in this new project.
Degiorgis’ black and white photographs of the rock formations of the Dolomites are the product of a meticulous monochrome approach. He captures the peaks through day and night, from winter into summer, and back again. The mountains are photographed more or less from a consistent angle and distance, with the sky reduced to uniform flatness, and while they slightly vary in shape and type of rock, together they form a continuous visual flow. Most of the pages depict jagged peaks, but there are also piles of sand and stones that resemble peaks, confusing the viewer’s perception of scale. All the images are loose and printed on double sided paper, reproducing one peak on each side. The prints are then folded and two halves from different images form a new hybrid peak, perfectly aligned in the center to create the appearance of a continuous formation.
Cycles set the structure of the book. The visual flow starts with a black jacket, followed by few completely black pages, transitioning to mountain peaks photographed at night in the summer and gradually changing to day as it begins to snow. The last snow images are mostly white with just some blacks of the rock coming through. There are few completely white pages in the middle and from there, the snow melts and the cycle goes back from light to dark, from winter to summer, from rock to sand – the cycle of life, as it exists through continuity and change, ups and downs.
The Dolomites are widely regarded as being among the most attractive mountain landscapes in the world, yet, from a photographic perspective, any single image from this project might be considered rather dull. Degiorgis’ images are not typically beautiful or breathtaking mountain landscapes; in fact, the peaks we encounter page after page are less than memorable, almost anonymous in their blunt lack of trees or greenery. The strength of these photographs lies in their tedious repetition and their scrupulously attentive composition, as similar shapes and gradually changing colors create the reflective visual experience. The photobook is at once a meditative depiction of the forms of nature, a study of the passage of time, and a challenge to our understanding of a single moment.
Degiorgis’ interest in rigid monochromes is also reflected in the physical format of the photobook, through its thoughtful construction and delicate design. The loose pages are held together by a black rubber band, with a tiny indented cut at both ends to hold it elegantly in place. The book cover, with French folds, has letters of the title cut out – the letters “A” and “E” are on the outside, while “P” and “K” are hidden inside. The shape of the letter “A”, placed on the black front cover resembles a mountain, while letter “E” (turned on its back with a middle leg a bit longer) recalls the Chinese character for mountain. This playful use of typography reinforces the spare lines of the imagery found inside.
In the end, Degiorgis’ PEAK reflects both the photographer’s fascination with the mountains and the application of a careful formal aesthetic, all tied up in a meticulously constructed photobook package. It’s an integrated art object that enhances its subject, a controlled environment where craggy peaks are both found and constructed and time passes in a never ending circle.
Collector’s POV: Nicoló Degiorgis does not appear to have gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following up should likely connect directly with the artist via his website (linked above).