Text by Michela Coslovich
All images © Davide Degano
Davide Degano (Udine, Italy, 1990) is a photographer living and working between Udine and The Hague (Netherlands). He’s graduated from the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague and he received a mention for the Schuitema Award in 2020.
Focused on storytelling, Davide Degano’s photography is based on an anthropological matrix studying, observing and analyzing territorial realities.
His works have been presented in solo and group exhibitions in Trieste, Udine, London, Novi Sad (Serbia), The Hague and featured on platforms such as ARTDOC, Vogue Italia, and The Photographic Journal. He recently published his first photo book, Sclavanie, by Penisola Edizioni in collaboration with Urbanautica Institute.
“Is it possible telling stories through images?”
Always passionate about the photographic medium, Davide Degano began his journey in the field of visual arts after asking himself this simple but, at the same time, complex question. Starting from a small town in province of Udine (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Northern Italy), he will find the answer at Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, Netherlands, a place that will allow him to know photographic medium and to approach it in a systemic and analytical way. After moving away the concept of art from an aesthetic point of view, he begins to deal with a more documentary and storytelling photographic style.
Returning to his origin country after six years abroad, Davide tries to analyze with new eyes the places where he was born and raised, with the eyes of a foreigner. The everyday life he had always lived turned into something past, no longer current. This feeling of being a stranger in his own home leads Davide to unconsciously develop what will become his most important visual work, Sclavanie. During first year of the project, Davide photographs unconsciously and without a precise order but, deepening his research over time, he comes across stories, relationships and truths of facts linked to his family.
After the Second World War, having Slovenian roots in Italy was dangerous and this fear forced entire families to hide their true Slavic origins. Born from this state of subordination of these populations, Davide’s desire is to give voice to linguistic and cultural minorities through images. Can photography tell the enrichment that these people bring within a certain place?
Friuli Venezia Giulia region has a particularly complex and unique linguistic structure. Always considered a meeting point, this peculiarity makes it the only European region in which four official languages are spoken: Italian, Slovenian, Friulian and German.
Sclavanie is the story of a border area where Italian, Slovenian and German cultures mix together without too many difficulties or questions, everything happens spontaneously because it is the place itself that allows it. It is a territory that binds people with different cultural heritages. The term “sclavanie” indicates the Slavic origins of first populations who inhabited these territories. Today, this word is used in a derogatory way referred to people who live on the mountainous border and that carry on their Slavic roots.
Analyzing the concept of family intimacy, Davide’s journey develops inside locals’ homes, becoming acquainted with historical photographs that complete the project as archival material. The project wants to give importance to memory as an element from which to start in order to progress and improve. The result is the ability to give voice to an intimate memory by creating a bridge between past, present and future.
Through an anthropological gaze, Davide explores a geographical area characterized by a deep emigration and depopulation of small villages. The term “local” is deeply analyzed through a common memory guided by the only few inhabitants who resist on these border territories.
Sclavanie is the answer to the question from which whole process started: it is possible to tell stories through images and photography allows us to know, analyze and pass them on.