GIORGIO DI NOTO. THE ICEBERG
by Eleonora Milner


Hello Giorgio, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how did you get into photography?

GIORGIO DI NOTO (G.D.): I started taking photographs when I was 15-16, during my high school. Then, when I was 19 I worked and studied with a darkroom printer for some weeks. During this period I learned and explored the analogue printing techniques and, more in general, the passion for the printing processes which are, still today, an important part of my research. Moreover I was lucky to spend time with amazing artists, photographers, curators from whom I learned a lot, being engaged more and more with contemporary photography and in general with contemporary art. I also attended, for some years, a photography school in Rome where I began to study history and theory of photography.

About your approach to photography. How would you describe your personal research in general? - Do you think there is a link that connects all your works?

G.D.: The link in my works is the attempt to show a relationship between the technical process and the content of a project. The content of images have to be expressed through a way which adds and/or underlines something to create a contrast with the subject. I need to represent this dialogue insisting somehow on the ambiguity of the photographic means. I'm interested in the image tout court, how it is perceived and conveyed through photography. The issue of documentary pictures, for example, is always very important and interesting to me, I worked a lot on it.

Tell us about your last project 'The Iceberg'...

G.D.: 'The Iceberg' is the metaphor often used to represent internet: the tip of the Iceberg, called regular or surface web, is where we surf everyday through search engines, social networks, blogs, news websites etc. etc. The submerged part, in the amount of about its 90%, represents the so called "Deep Web", the not-indexed part of the web. Here we find the "Darkweb" or "Darknet", which is a small portion not accessible through standard web browsers. My research is about the representation of illicit goods, and especially drugs advertisements in the black market of the darknet. I was interested in how the sellers use pictures and images to represents their product and more in general what kind of images and visual contents you can find in this anonymous and hidden realm. So I studied and researched for months thousands of listings, looking for interesting images used to advertise the drugs. I was especially interested in the original pictures made by the sellers themselves and, on the other hand, the public domain / common pictures sometimes they used as a metaphor or a visual reference for their product.


© Giorgio Di Noto, 'The Iceberg', installation view


© Giorgio Di Noto, 'The Iceberg', installation view with UV lamp

While the common pictures are printed in black and white (because they are visible also in the surface web), the original pictures are printed through a special ink which appears and reveals the images on the surface only under an UV light. This is for me a way to represent the "invisibility" of these images, the fact that they are under the surface and you can see them only if you go beyond this surface. Moreover there is also a relation with the UV lamp, which actually is one of the tools sometime used to look for drug traces. Moreover it was interesting to me experiencing how this technique reproduces these often pixelated images so you don't perceive they are very small and compressed files.

I'm interested in how the images work in an anonymous, uncontrolled space where pictures have a specific function: not revealing anything about the author, disappearing after some time when the listing ends. Eventually I wanted to experiment an interactive way to propose the idea of invisibility, which is an interesting concept especially today when everything is visible and over exposed. I started to experiment this interaction with different installation and now, finally, also with a book, which has been published some months ago by Patrick Frey.


© Giorgio Di Noto, 'The Iceberg', Potent Chocolate Chip Pot Cookies (visible)


© Giorgio Di Noto, 'The Iceberg', installation view with UV lamp


© Giorgio Di Noto, 'The Iceberg', installation view with UV lamp

The image selection and the way the book has been designed reveal that there has been a clear and specific idea behind this project. In fact, the design of 'The Iceberg' seems to have been created as a part of the project itself. Could you tell us a little bit about your ideas behind the book design?

G.D.: Firstly the book has been designed by Nicolas Polli, an amazing and talented graphic designer. His work influenced a lot the project and led the book to become what you can see today. The icebers is born to be an installation. The book translation wasn't easy, although it always seemed to be the perfect means to show and represent the project.

We worked a lot on creating a double layer in the book, we wanted to avoid to make a banal white-blank book. The black and white images and the sentences printed on some pages have a very important role. Moreover we wanted to make an elegant object in contrast with the content, a book which suggests something very far from what is actually represented inside. We worked also on all the technical choices like the uv lamp, the black box etc.


© Giorgio Di Noto, book 'The Iceberg', published by Patrick Frey Editions


© Giorgio Di Noto, book 'The Iceberg', published by Patrick Frey Editions


© Giorgio Di Noto, book 'The Iceberg', published by Patrick Frey Editions


© Giorgio Di Noto, book 'The Iceberg', published by Patrick Frey Editions

On the back cover you can read: «Once the package arrives, bring it inside and don't open it for 5-15 minutes.» Once you open it, you are greeted by a blank page. To read the content, you must be in a dark room and use UV light. This makes the reading itself a magic moment. Do you think that this new way of reading contributes to bring "the famous aura" back?

G.D.: I don't know if it is a new way, but it is for sure an experiment. I tried to propose a book which demands an interaction, an intimate and private relationship that could be also shared (in a very dark place...). The books is about the view experience of the book itself. It is like a portable personal installation.


© Giorgio Di Noto, book 'The Iceberg', published by Patrick Frey Editions

As you explained, «in 'The Iceberg' the photographs are printed with a special ink which reveals the images on the surface only under UV light. These pictures, anonymously uploaded and probably destined to self-erase once their function expire, they are not traceable or visible in the Surface Web, but they temporarily live only in this hidden space.» This passage reminds me of some social media practices. For example, in snapchat or in Instagram stories, thousands of photos and videos appear and disappear lasting only 24 hours. Could ephemeral images be considered a symbolic form of our contemporary world?

G.D.: Yes sure. There is a new way, in the last few years, of having use of images. Photography is changing itself. We could ask if it is still photography and what does it mean. The most of the images produced by smartphones don't represent a “frozen moment” for the future, but they are a temporary extension of the present. This issue is a controversial topic and we could speak about esthetic and anthropology of images for hours. I'm very interested in working and studying on how the images are used, how they are created and how they are changing etc. The ephemerality is an important element.


© Giorgio Di Noto, book 'The Iceberg', published by Patrick Frey Editions


© Giorgio Di Noto, book 'The Iceberg', published by Patrick Frey Editions

Quoting Virginia Woolf from 'Three Guineas' on June 193: «This morning’s collection contains the photograph of what might be a man’s body, or a woman’s; it is so mutilated that it might, on the other hand, be the body of a pig. But those certainly are dead children, and that undoubtedly is the section of a house. A bomb has torn open the side; there is still a bird-cage hanging in what was presumably the sitting room . . .» As you know, news media and digital photography have contributed in changing the way we report news. You investigated the relationships between the perception of reality and news media in the project 'The Arab Revolt". Could you tell us a little bit more about this project?

G.D.: The Arab Revolt was my first important project, when I was 22-23. It is a project about the events documentation during the Arab Spring, when the visual and video contents produced by the citizens themselves became a crucial role to depict those events. The presence of photojournalists was very massive: I remember some friends told me it wasn't easy to make a picture in Tahrir Square without the photographers themselves in the frame. It was a very interesting situation. The contents produced by photojournalists overlapped the contents made by the population. Through social networks everything could be shared in a few seconds. So it was the occasion to reflect about how a press image works and how it is perceived, what it does and what it is supposed to do.

The role of photojournalism became to be very important to me, so I decided to work on it. I started to work on the footage made by the populations and uploaded on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, looking for some still frames. I photographed them with a Polaroid on the computer screen. I chose Polaroid material because it was the only one that didn't reveal the screen layer, so the pictures seemed to be really made on the field. The final result is a sort of reportage made with a Polaroid camera using images cliches about the classic imaginary of conflict documentation.  The project became a sort of provocation, analysing the ambiguity between the esthetic value and the concept of “truth”. Everything was amplified because I won the Pesaresi Prize for photojournalism and it created a lot of debates and discussions on the web, sometimes very interesting, sometimes just offensive. It was a formative experience. This project was very important to me because I understood what could be my research and my interest in using and studying the photographic means.

Is there any show you’ve seen recently or any contemporary artist or photographer that you find inspiring?

G.D.: I was recently very intrigued by the exhibition of Trevor Paglen in New York (Metro Pictures Gallery). I like and I follow him, he is a very interesting artist. I'm also a big fan of Tayo Onorato and Nico Krebs. The exhibition of Philippe Parreno some years ago in Paris (Palais de Tokyo) impressed me a lot. My idea of working on interactive projects and on installations was inspired by his work.

What’s ahead?

G.D.: I'm continuing to work on a project about the materiality of the photographic support and also about the visibility-invisibility issue. I'm also working on a project about the “impossible archives”. It will be about the images made by ISIS. I'd like to study more, observe and make research instead of producing new stuff.

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LINKS
Giorgio Di Noto 
Book page 'The Iceberg'published by Patrick Frey Editions 
Video: Book 'The Iceberg' by Giorgio Di Noto - Edition Patrick Frey
Video: 'The Iceberg' at Exhibition at Festival Fotografia Europea 2017, Reggio Emilia (Italy)
urbanautica Italy