2014 : a year in review.

I looked everywhere to find the perfect word to singlehandedly describe this last year. 

I found one : intense. 

2014 was indeed a very intense year for me. 

Very high ups, very low downs. Divided among 3 continents, 5 time zones and way more seasons that one would normally experience. Over 6000 km on a bicycle, an average of 3 hours of walking a day and countless long hours sitting on my bum. 

2014 started in Venice, Italy. In a big house rented with my closest and best friends ever. We hadn't been all together in years, and we all knew we wouldn't be able to be together like that for other years to come. From the get go, I knew this was going to be a great year. 

The first photoshoot of the year was in Milan, Italy. 

I shot the promotional material for "Mosca", a band of very close friends of mine. 

"Mosca" in Milano. Promotional photoshoot. 

"Mosca" in all their beauty.

January was the last month I spent in Rome. I had to leave a city that I both loved and hated intensely for two years. I had to say goodbye to some of the most important people of my life, people that influenced me so much I can't even express. I'm talking about my mentor and photography maestro, Eolo Perfido, whom I had the pleasure of assisting for almost 2 years, and all the beautiful people in our team : Antonella, Corrado, Luca, Lorenzo, Valeria, Stefano. Along with all the good friends that I left in the capital : Enrico, Andrea, Lucio, Stefano, Daniele, Valeria, Fabiola an countless others. 

In February, I moved back to my hometown, Casale Monferrato, and started a training regime to prepare for my next big thing: cycling the length of Japan with my best fried, Sio. 

While in Casale, I had the pleasure to get to know Fabiana and her ridiculous passion for dancing: we spent a night in her studio working on some dance portraits that I actually never posted anywhere. 

Fabiana dancing in her studio. And a portrait of hers that she will kill me for posting. Sorry, I just like it way too much :) 

On March 4th, I arrived in Okinawa, Japan, and met Sio. 2 days later, our Tricross Sport Disc 2014 bikes get delivered by our sponsor for the project, Specialized. We assembled the bikes, and left for what I had no idea was going to be the biggest adventure of my life. 

Sio assembling his bike. 

There are no words to explain what cycling the length of Japan meant to us. But still, we tried to share the experience the best we could on the website of the project www.uncommonstories.org . Go and check it out for all the photos of the trip along with Vlogs and blogs (Yes, I know, I still have to finish to write the last few ones in english. I promise it will all be done in a couple of days!) 

79 days and 4062 km later, we reached our destination : Cape Soya, the northernmost point of Japan. We cried.

To this day, it's still the best thing I've done in my life. Which kinda makes everything else suck in comparison... :) 

As I'm writing this, we're in the process to write a book about the whole project, called unCOMMON:Wheels.

I'll keep you posted on that! 

Me and Sio at the northernmost point of Japan. The end of unCOMMON:Wheels

At the beginning of June, we came back to Italy to celebrate the success of our project. 

Just a few days later, I received a phone call : "Do you want to be Steve McCurry's first assistant on assignment in Ethiopia? We leave in 5 days. " 

WTF! Yes, of course! 

Without really understanding the magnitude of what was happening, on June 15th I flew to Ethiopia and spent 7 days assisting one of the world's most famous and renown photographers in the history, in rural africa. I worked with some of the best professionals in our industry, all while playing with monkeys, drinking delicious coffee and feeding hyenas. 

IMG_6383.JPG
IMG_6418.JPG
IMG_6426.JPG
 I am the proud owner of the only blurred instant film photo with Steve McCurry that was ever taken :) 

I am the proud owner of the only blurred instant film photo with Steve McCurry that was ever taken :) 

On June 23rd, my birthday, I flew back to Italy just to find myself in the best Surprise Party one could ever wish for. Year after year, I realize that the best present I ever received is my amazing family. I am the luckiest person alive, no doubt on that! 

Turning 26, with mom and dad. Someone came up with the idea to facepaint everyone. Why the hell not! 

2014 had started with two BIG ASS AWESOME experiences already and I had to keep it going. 

I decided it was time to move away from Italy, and to challenge myself to move to a country where I had no friends, no network, no contacts in the industry and see where I would get in a year. I chose Australia, I chose Melbourne. 

Over the next month I just relaxed and prepared for the big move. I spent time in Venice, Rome, Naples and Casale saying goodbye to all of my friends.

Uber cool friends in Venice : assemble! 

In Venice, I shot the promo package for Marco Zanini, a jazz singer but most importantly a great friend of mine. 

In Casale, I took some portrait of Jennifer and cursed myself for not having done that before. She's way too gorgeous. 

On July 24th, I arrived in Melbourne. I landed "down under" with nothing more than my camera gear and a bag of clothes. All I had was a 1 year visa and 7 nights booked in a hostel. I loved it. 

I love the incredible, overwhelming, empowering sensation of moving to a new city, a new country. 

Every door is open, every possibility is at your reach. You start from scratch again. And trust me, Melbourne in an insane city to move to: the air smells like opportunities. 

I found a tiny ass studio apartment and a job as a retoucher at a photographic studio. 

I started falling in love with the city, meeting new people, figuring out how to move to go back to being a freelance photographer. 

I shot A LOT of photos. 

Self portrait in my new studio apartment. 

Docklands, Melbourne

Docklands, Melbourne

St.Kilda, Melbourne

 On top of the Eureka Tower, Melbourne

On top of the Eureka Tower, Melbourne

On top of the Eureka Tower, Melbourne

I was high on life, high on people. I was walking 10 feet above the ground. I woke up everyday thrilled to see what was going to happen. The excitement was overwhelming. I kept on meeting new people, making new friends, I was always out. Everything seemed so damn simple, I had the city at my hands!

Looking back in hindsight, I was too full of myself and I was milking it. 

Christoff, a french new friend met at the hostel. My first portrait session in Melbourne. 

Michael, a super cool photographer of Melbourne

Off of a facebook group of creatives in Melbourne, I met Casey and her story stoked me. Whan an unbelievable girl. We spent an afternoon shooting portraits at her place. An intense afternoon, as it's supposed to be when you're taking someone's portrait, because if you don't step in their life and breath them a little, what are you doing with that camera? We took some of my favorite portraits to date on that day. 

Casey

Casey in her messy room. 

One day, coming back home in the rain, I heard music coming out of the coin laundry next to my apartment. I walked in to find John playing his accordion. Ran back to mine's, grabbed some lights and went back there to shoot some portraits. We sat down sipping coffee and talked for hours about how wonderful of a place this world is. 

October kicked in, and I started feeling imprisoned by working as a retoucher for someone that doesn't take pictures I can RESPECT. Decided to quit, decided it was time to go all in and develop my freelance career here even without the necessary contacts. I shot six events, including taking portraits of the speakers of TEDXMelbourne, which was an awesome experience. What a bunch of inspirational people! 

But right after the TEDxMelbourne event, things started to slow down. Like, seriously slow down. 

I wasn't getting enough work to sustain myself and I started spending way too much money off my savings (life in Australia is crazy expensive if you pay in Euro, trust me). And being a creature that feeds off excitement and enthusiasm, I felt less and less energetic. 

To this point, I can't remember what happened in October. I remember waking up at noon every day, spending all night on youtube looking for "something" that I could never find. I remember watching Tv series episode after episode. I got in a rut and couldn't get out. I felt lonely, I had a lot of self doubt. I wasn't pushing nearly enough towards the direction I want to go. 

I had completely forgotten that things don't happen overnight. That the initial excitement due to moving in a new country wears off. It all felt new to me, a new low. Most especially, I had forgotten that I had already experienced it, years ago when I moved to Sapporo. 

Towards the end of the month, I shot a look book for a very talented clothes designer. It was my first time ever to shoot by myself in a studio. It turned out to be such an amazing day and it started coming back to me that I am capable of more than I thought until that moment. 

After the studio shoot, the designer was so happy with the results that we planned another photoshoot, more up my alley this time : location portraits. At the parliament house. 

The shoot was a blast and we nailed it! To the point where, seeing a guy with a stormtrooper helmet passing by, I dropped my camera and ran after him, leaving model, designer and assistant kinda speechless. I returned with the helmet and this awesome photo came to life! 

And so, just as easily as I got myself into my bad period, I got myself out of it. November kicked in, I started networking again with renewed energy, and it worked big time! I had tons of job interviews and found myself a job for the 6 weeks before christmas. On november 14th I had my first big showcase, for which I invested a lot of money in prints. It was a Raw:Australia event and I had a blast! 

Not because of the big prints (even though seeing your work on art paper blown up to size DOES make you melt inside a little bit) but mostly because a lot of friends came to support me. Stupid me, I have never been alone :)

I just felt that way because I was too stupid to actually open my eyes and look around. 

Insta-selfies from that night.

On November 15th I started working, pretty much everyday until christmas...

Doing what?

Well, you know that guy that takes photos of kids that go and see Santa at the mall? Well, this year it was me :) 

December was a busy month. I worked pretty much every day at the Santa Cave, networked and squeezed all the contacts I could to set things right for the new year's start. Had a couple editorial shootings between a shift with Santa and yet another day at the green screen. One went particularly well, with a gorgeous german model at the docklands. 

And then, the last great thing of the year happened: after meeting for coffee with Ollie Savage, a make up artist met through mutual friends, and having a chat about some ideas we had for a collaboration, we came up with the concept for the [White] project. We already had an amazing male model for the first shoot but I wanted to find a girl as well. And I wanted her to have her head shaved. Not the easiest kinda girl to find. 

Well, two days later I found her! In the streets of Melbourne! Jumped up to her, explained her the project and left her with my business card. 10 minutes later she mailed me : "I'm in" 

The next week I was in the studio with Ollie Savage, Dylan and Sarah. All together we created my favorite photos of the year. 

The first 4 photos of the [White] Project

What else? 

First christmas away from the family: weird. 

Spent it with some friends, we cooked a hell of a turkey and had a great night but.. Christmas is just not the same without your family with you. I promised myself I'll do anything to spend christmas with my family every time I can! 

So here we are, last day of the year. 

This year was INTENSE. I learned a lot about life, about myself, through the various different things i put myself in during these 365 awesome days. 

I learned that things don't happen overnight, that it takes time for everything and time doesn't care about your impatience. I learned that anything can be accomplished, that dreams come true, that every opportunity that seems to fall out of the sky is actually the result of a lot of tiny steps you took in that direction. I learned that I have to take better care of myself. 

I learned that I can do it. No matter what. But I don't have to necessarily feel cocky because of it! 

I had big accomplishments in the first half of this year, and feels like I accomplished nothing since I arrived here in Melbourne. But I want to believe that I'm on my way, towards a direction I yet can't see or understand. The important thing is : I keep my feet moving.

Bring it on, 2015. 

Nico

 

 

 

 

I love you, stoopido. 

[Edit] :I'll post here this photo of Lorro, my best friend (Yes, I have two and we're a trio. Deal with it, english language) because if I'm correct, he will start reading, get to the Japan bit, get mad, and write me something like "oooh, someone's not good enough to fit in your blog huh!? Look, we're Nick and Sio doing things! Lorro? Lorro who?" without getting to the end and therefore seeing that he's in. We'll see if I'm right. :)