I’m Nicola Bernardi but please, call me Nico.
I’m a rather big, tall Italian dude that suspiciously looks like a thumb with a goatee.
I’m not the best at explaining what kind of stuff I shoot so.. I’ll just show you instead, ok?
When I got asked to be the guest blogger for this week I panicked. Like, big time. At first, I wanted to cram as much of my work as possible and promote myself like crazy.
“But c’mon Nico! You’re better than that!”
Fair enough. What to talk about then?
I know! INSPIRATION!
Let’s be inspirational, let’s inspire people with wise words, write something so deep and meaningful that’ll make people go, “OMG you totally got to me, you’re my new favorite thing in the world, nothing will ever be the same again, marry me!”
And so I wrote for a week. The more I wrote, the more delusions of grandeur I had thinking that this was going to be the next big TED talk. Standing ovation.
Me saying, “And that’s when it all changed for me,” sipping on fancy drinks with tiny umbrellas.
WHAT. A. LOSER.
Talk about turning a scream for attention into a more refined, better worded, self indulgent request for even MORE attention!
Damn. Well played ego, I see what you did there. You almost had me for a second (actually, for a whole week).
Now, approximately half the people that started reading this blog post are already gone.
Raise your hand if you are dying to check Facebook for notifications…
The other half of you, the ones that are still reading, are probably asking themselves “So, where is this guy going with this, exactly?”
The point is: I don’t know.
If I did know what to talk about in front of the audience of this blog, I’d probably be a writer.
But I’m not. Instead, I’m a photographer.
Photography hasn’t always been in my life: I picked up my first camera a little over 5 years ago, while living in Japan.
Before that, I had always studied languages. Italian, English, German, Japanese.
Learning new languages is freaking awesome, especially if you are a naturally extroverted Italian kid that can’t shut up to save his life. More languages equals more people I can annoy with my never-ending “blablabla.”
When I started with photography, I couldn’t make sense of why it took over everything else in my life and became my drug, my sole obsession. Nothing could stand in its way.
Luckily, I didn’t ask myself too many questions and didn’t look for too many answers.
I just followed my heart. I wanted to take pictures SO BADLY, and that was enough for me.
Flash forward to 2 years ago. I was commissioned to take pictures of Savina, a dancer in London. The brief was quite simple: take good photos of this girl dancing, for her online presence and for casting purposes.
I flew to England and met her for the first time. The day before the shoot we scouted the location and got to know each other a little better. I was amazed by her true passion, the deep love she had for dancing, regardless of how many times she had been crushed in the pursuit of her dreams.
I was in awe the whole time. I felt I had a giant standing in front of me, an alien. Someone with a such a bright and strong fire in their belly couldn’t possibly be from the same planet as me. And I felt I couldn’t just take photos of her dancing, It had to be more. I HAD to tell her story, I HAD to let everyone else about her passion, drive, strength. And about her fragility, her humanity.
These photos changed me forever.
For the first time, I didn’t just capture the subject that was in front of me.
I had told a story. HER story.
And in doing that, I had found the humanity in this giant, in this incredible amazing artist, the only point where I could finally connect with her.
I had finally found my voice. Or better, my message.
And all of a sudden, it became pretty clear why photography came into my life after studying languages and wiped absolutely everything else away from the get go: it was the new language that I had just began studying.
Because you know what? Photography IS a language!
Think about it: when you start learning a new language, the first thing you are faced with are grammar and vocabulary. It takes some time and some studying before you are even remotely able to put a sentence together. At first, all the crazy grammar rules of a new language make NO SENSE. The new words that you learn sound so weird, so hard to remember. Almost impossible to link to the ones that you know.
And it’s no different when it comes to photography: when a camera magically appears for the first time in your hands, your photos are… let’s say, sloppy. You start reading about ISO, Aperture, Shutter speeds. It makes little to no sense.
Add lighting for the first time because you saw someone mention flash on YouTube and you find yourself banging your head on the wall in desperation: Inverse square law? Light source to subject ratio? Modifiers? Oh god.
When first studying a language, you feel like even after giving your sweat and tears for it, you can’t yet put two words together to say even the simplest of things. But as time goes by, things start to make sense. You start acquiring the grammar, you master some vocabulary.
You start with simple sentences. With time, energy and experience, you start making sense of the new language. And so goes for photography: the technicalities become second nature. You begin to know WHY you choose a certain ISO, Aperture or Shutter speed. You understand WHY you want to use a certain lens and not another. Flash, that once was your nemesis, becomes your friend.
Congratulations, you have now learned a new language. You now KNOW photography.
But is that enough? Of course not. Absolutely not.
My father once told me these wise words while I was studying Japanese in University: “Nicola, knowing a language is a beautiful thing. But if you have nothing to say, no one will listen to you.”
And he was SO RIGHT.
But it wasn’t until I took Savina’s photos that I realized WHAT MY MESSAGE is. What is it that I talk about with my language, photography.
I have always been drawn to and surrounded myself with all these incredible people. Artists, musicians, performers, characters.
People that put so much love and passion in what they do, in what they truly believe in. And in doing so, they make the world a better place.
And regardless of the case, I have always felt like I wasn’t up to their level. I was always nothing more than a tiny man surrounded by giants. Photography gave me the words to tell the stories of these incredible people and to find the humanity in them, making me realize time after time that we do, in fact, come from the same planet.
Because photography is how I talk about things. Things that matter to me.
And the only thing that matters to me is PEOPLE. And how freaking amazing they are.
And you know what the most beautiful thing is? I’ll never run out of things to say!
Now, have a look at some of these beautiful giants that I’ve met.
If you’ve made it this far reading this WAY-TOO-LONG blog post, let me say something : THANK YOU.
Thank you so much for giving me some of your time, for allowing me to tell you my story and what my message is.
Lastly, let me ask you something: What do YOU talk about, with your language?
(A huge thank you to Scott Kelby, Brad Moore and all the team behind this amazing blog, you guys are teaching all of us SO MUCH time after time!)
Nicola is an Italian portrait photographer currently living in Melbourne, Australia. You can see more of his work at NicolaBernardi.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.