* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
Piotr Niepsuj (Lodz, 1984) studied at Politecnico di Milano (Milano). He worked with 2DM/Management, AD, Adidas, AnOther, Dazed & Confused, Hero, Modzik, Neon, Nike Stadium, Nowness, Off White, PIG Mag, Port Magazine, Rivista Studio, Toilet Paper and Vice.
When did you arrive in Milan and how did you get into the creative context of the city?
I arrived at Milan almost 10 years ago to study architecture. I couldn’t really speak Italian and didn’t know anybody, so I’d just drink some vodka (yes, go ahead with the stereotypes about Polish people!) and go out on my own. I was this nice/drunk polish guy, dancing all night long, trying to speak to everybody in not-really Italian and actually having a good time. At some point I met the PIG Magazine crew and they adopted me in their family. I always say that going to parties helped me a lot to get where I am now.
Among your first experiences there is the work for Pig Magazine, subsequently Pig Quarterly; can you tell us what kind of photos you took for them?
It was definitely a great time in my life and everything I know I learned there, so I owe them a lot. Being a ‘music nerd’, I started as assistant to the music editor, but after a while I was increasingly attracted by the images and always had a special attention towards what Sean (Beolchini) and Simon (Beckerman) were doing on this level. At some point, Sean gave me my first camera and that’s how it all started. They made me take pictures for the newspaper when I had nearly no experience. Pretty plucky of them!
I was shooting more or less what I’m doing now – portraits of artists, DJs, producers, designers, reports, party photos… virtually documenting the scene. Then they upgraded me to photo-editor, so I started to participate more actively as to the image of the magazine’s content, dealing with the layout and everything else, and I ended up as the creative editor in a couple of the last issues.
In the last year you have been working on some fashion related projects. To what extent does fashion interest you?
It has always been there, somewhere. I mean, if you live in Milan, basically everything is somehow connected to fashion, but I always say that I’m not a fashion photographer. What interests me more is to show how it all really looks like, rather than to set things up, so I prefer to shoot the backstage of a fashion show rather than shooting for an editorial. And even if they asked me to work on advertising campaigns (as with the Off-White sneakers), I care more about the process than making the product look cute. The same applies to the lookbook of Sansovino 6 that I co-photographed (with Zelinda Zanichelli) and edited – for me the story is more important than fashion. But of course the garments are important too. If they weren’t good, the whole story wouldn’t be so interesting.
And yes, I’m interested in and fascinated by fashion, but I’m also bored and angry about fashion. It’s complicated.
You are about to publish your first photo book with a series of holiday pictures shot between Poland and Germany with the help of Dallas (Francesco Valtolina, Kevin Pedron). How does it look, when is it going to be released and what do you think to organize for the launch?
Yeah, pretty excited about that, my first little book! It’s ready now and being shipped from Poland where I had it printed. It’s not really a series, but rather a little part of my diary containing photos I shoot everyday with my iPhone. It was a very important summer for me and when I came back, it felt like making a book rather than just uploading another facebook album. So there it is – 64 pages, small format, hard cover, just images.
And I did ask Dallas to help me with design, but my ideas are just too ‘defined’ for a collaboration… I want things to be done my way. I know it’s not nice, but compromises are not for me.
Some time ago, you and some of your friends (Giorgio di Salvo, Lorenzo Mapelli, Riccardo Trotta and Daniel Sansavini who does the flyers) created an event called Girls Love Beyoncé, a real success in town. What’s the story and how is it going to continue?
At some point we’d all listen a lot to r’n’b music and we realized there was no place to dance to this type of music and it seemed right to fill this void – and it worked. But I have no idea how it will go on. It is quite randomly.
We are making this studio visit in the south of Milan, but you said you would eventually move further north to Porta Venezia; why? Is there more going on or is there a different attitude?
Last year, after they rebuilt the Darsena for the Expo, it became disgusting. I also need to change because the houses and flats here have become fucking expensive and not necessarily nicer. Plus Porta Venezia would mean fresh air for me and changes are good.
Could you state some reference photographers for you, or somebody whose work you really respect?
I respect anybody who makes his/her own thing, who does not follow the trends and who maintains their identity, even if it’s not necessarily the easiest choice. Tyrone Lebon would be a good example.
Have you been working or co-working with somebody in particular here in town and what do you appreciate in their work?
I’ve so much respect for a lot of people in Milan. I think they are extremely talented and their work is of top quality. Daniel Sansavini, Francesco Valtolina, Giorgio di Salvo, Lorenzo Senni, Simona Citarella just to name the first that come to my mind, but the list could be really long. The thing is that we rarely work together. We are all overloaded with work, we have different visions of the world, different priorities and different backgrounds. It’s hard to link it, maybe particularly for me as I grew up in Poland which is a completely different story. And as I said before, I’m not easy to collaborate with, I want to stick to my vision and I’m not good in compromising.