Giving photojournalism a run for its money, Nicola La Calzo’s work speaks bold magnitudes of culture, politics, history and social identity. His collections span from 2002 where his initiation towards photography began at the University of Turin. After training in Architecture and graduating in a Master of Visual Arts, Calzo’s photographs illustrate a strong historical consciousness, pushing him to focus on portraiture and subject personification.
Born in Italy, trained in Paris and embarking on multiple trips to Africa leaves Nicola longing for more, his work constantly exploring and recording humanity in a psychological and emotional context.
What sort of exposure drove you to pursue photography professionally?
I discovered photography while I was studying Architecture. At that time, I used to go to a painting atelier after my university classes. After two years of oil painting, I felt the need to change the medium I was working on, I was looking for something more immediate. My father had an old Olympus camera, so I started taking regular photographs with it.
Did having a background in architecture play a big role in your initiation towards photojournalism?
Yes, I think so, especially in the composition and framing of the image, but also in the way of conceiving and developing a project. The best heritage of my experience as an architect is the work method, with different steps, from the research to the photo editing, and the diffusion of a project too.
Your photography speaks a thousand words and has a strong historic consciousness about it. Is it something you developed whilst pursuing photography or did you draw inspiration from other photographers and artists?
Most of my work is focused on minority issues and identity. When you reflect over this kind of issue, you need to know and manage the subject with awareness and honesty. The risk of falling in stereotypes and clichés is very high, that's why you need to be critical with your self and your proposals.  The research by archives, books and meetings with anthropologists, historians and artists related to my subject is a good way to get a complex vision of it.
You studied in Italy and then trained in Paris for a while where you developed some of your earlier work. But your most alluring work was captured in Africa; such as “Inside Niger”, “Comeback to Kalahari” and “Morgante”, which focuses on Dwarfism. What captivated you to photograph in Africa?
My interest for African people is because of my own personal experience. Most of my friends in Paris are from African countries or the Caribbean. In the beginning of that interest, I think that there is our common experience of the oppressed people; me because I’m gay and them because they might be dwarves, albinos, black, Muslims, or simply foreigners. This intersectionality pushed me instinctively to focus on the minority issues such as the little people and albinos in Cameroun, the San people in the Kalahari, the slavery legacy of African Diasporas in the XXI century. I’m eager to understand how these groups face discrimination, the existing stigmatization and their survival strategies.
Most of your work encapsulates slavery, race and colonialism. Are you trying to address these issues directly or indirectly in your work and towards your audience?
In my works I wish to interrogate the audience about issues that are normally considered kind of communitarian. Even if I have my own point of view, I don't want to give answers, I prefer to ask questions. I just wish to move people, to reflect about some issues or aspects of the society we live in. We are supposed to live in a postcolonial era but the traces of slavery, segregation, colonialism and fascism are still there. The racism, the homophobia, the anti-Semitism is the result of all this history. To think that four hundred years of African slavery and dehumanization is simply a black affair, is a way to reiterate and perpetuate the oppression of the African’s ancestors today. In these terms, my work about the memories of slavery is a kind of pretext to draw a portrait of some contemporary societies and at the same time, a way to document how the African Diasporas survived to slavery, their complex and various forms of resistance and most of all the culture's transmission.
What has been your biggest challenge to date when photographing in Africa?
It’s a continuous challenge. It’s all about being accepted by a group or a community that sees you as a stranger. Once you break this wall between you and them, you can then start taking photographs. For me the secret is just to be honest and clear in my proposal. I use it to explain my ideas, to share my work and to spend time with people. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.
Will more of your projects focus within Africa and Europe or are you open towards photographing elsewhere in the world?
I'm open to all kind of projects related to minorities. It depends on my own meetings. At the moment I'm working in the Caribbean and South-America. I’ve just come back from Suriname and French Guiana, where I spent two months working with the Maroon communities of Amazonia, invited by Saint Laurent du Maroni City Council. My next mission will be in Cuba next spring.