Words by Anthony Thomas
“I’ve always been fascinated by the possibility of creating hybrids, and this pushed me to the point of turning something into something else. In 2012, I began researching the possibility of combining graphics and photography in order to decrease the distance between the two arts by creating photographic images that could easily be exchanged for graphic images.”
A snowboarder since sixteen, Nicolas Polli began taking photos as a response to a growing need for documentation of his friends’ slope side antics. Years later he sustained a knee injury, depraving him of one passion but setting him on the path to discovering the possibilities of photography. It’s important to note though, Polli has never identified as a photographer.
“I studied graphic design. Photography became part of my working experience. I was trying to integrate it as much as possible, but I never had a real teacher who helped me with this. During my third year I was seeing that both photography and graphic design were equally important to me and started to think how could I use graphic design in my photography.”
It was this epiphany and the works of Na Kim, Anu Vahtra and Thomas Albdorf that invigorated Polli with a multidisciplinary perspective of creation, telling me it is likely to be an ongoing characteristic of his work. Valuing creative innovation and learning over identification of facts and answers, his crosshairs are currently targeting the relationship between photography and graphic design’s most tangible facet, paper.
“It is an important element for a graphic designer. You cannot just do good work, you have to know how to best represent the content and a good choice of paper is one element of this. The use of paper in my photography is my link to graphic design.”
Much of this work can be found in Polli’s most recent personal project. Born and raised in a small country town with five hundred inhabitants, Polli made the daunting move to Berlin for professional development and soon found a position in Swiss design agency, OnLab. However, the role left no room for further extension of his photographic experiments and 176.10965.44 Berlin was born.
“I always try to occupy myself with as many things as possible. This helps me to think fast, find solutions and adapt myself to different situations. 176.10965.44 Berlin was the answer to my need to continue to use photography. The goal is to take a picture each day of my experiences, allowing me to further investigate different fields and keep me trained both technically and conceptually. When I started this project I was faced with some difficulties.
I did not know the city, I did not know anyone who lived in Berlin, I had no equipment except my camera, I did not have a place to shoot and my working hours did not allow me to shoot in the day with the sunlight. Therefore, each picture was made in a very short time, and most of the images were shot in my kitchen. Because of this, the project became primarily research into my relationship with my living space, focusing on objects that were already in the apartment or with food with which I entered into a relationship.”
It speaks volumes of why Polli began producing still life images, which arguably creates a more conducive space to experiment with interactions between photography and design. Browsing the project as a whole,it’s hard to ignore how very monochromatic periods suddenly burst into intense colour splashing across the screen. A deliberate aesthetic decision or unplanned phenomena?
“I never really looked at it until you told me! I think this is really a combination of my mood and the needs of the pictures. If I have the feeling that a certain image will work better represented in a certain way, I have a problem to change its colours to it. As a project, it’s really important to ensure continuity between the pictures. This can be done with the use of colors, subject matter or composition. The project is meant to work as a collection of images strong enough alone but at the same time have something in common to give viewers the ability to view the images coherently. I like the idea that each day something new is going to interact with the older images, creating a puzzle of my experiences.”
Polli has every intention of giving the body of work longevity but reserved specific comment, preferring to leave a certain air of mystery about how his vision will unfold over time. Reflecting on his concepts, I can’t help but be drawn to when he told me, “I use photography and design to discover new things and new limits.” The quote resonates because it embodies everything this young artist values.
By rejecting mutual exclusivity between creative mediums, Polli removes their individual boundaries and exposes himself to the full possibilities of the collaboration economy. The pastures are lush with opportunity and while exactly what will be produced is yet to be determined, we can speculate it will exist in a realm further void of traditional genre definitions.