Book Review: Hidden Islam – Nicoló Degiorgis

Written in english for Hatje Cantz Fotoblog – published on August 9th, 2014.

 

This book was published and first presented at the Milan Image Art Fair in May 2014. The very young publishing house Rorhof did a short marathon of photo festivals in Europe including Bristol, Vienna and Arles before being awarded for the Rencontres d’Arles Author Book Award on July 12th, 2014. What a quick and successful journey for a self-financed and self-produced book! The photographer of the published work Hidden Islam, Nicoló Degiorgis, indeed cofounded the publishing house Rorhof with Eleanora Matteazzi only four months before in March 2014.

On the cover of the book titled Hidden Islam you can read the subtitle « Islamic makeshift places of worship in North East Italy, 2009-2013 » as well as a list of eight categories: Warehouses, Shop, Supermarket, Apartment, Stadium, Gym, Garage, Disco. These elements are already crucial information to introduce the subject of the book but the reader is still free to grasp the whole thing step by step inside, thanks to the great design of the book.

Hidden Islam is indeed made of 45 gatefolds. Turning the pages one after the other in the traditional way, you can sees black and white photographs of houses and buildings taken from the street. You can’t see anybody but only closed spaces that seem uninhabited.
In a second time or in a parallel time, the gatefolds can be open to discover the second part of the photo series – intimate color photographs taken inside the spaces when Muslims are praying on Fridays – as well as an introduction text and a detailed map of North East Italy pointing out all the places visited by Nicoló Degiorgis from 2009 to 2013.

The text, signed by the famous English photographer, curator and collector Martin Parr says: “Consider these facts. In Italy the right to worship, without discrimination, is enshrined within the constitution. There are 1.35 million Muslims in Italy and yet, officially, only eight mosques in the whole country. Despite being the second largest religion after Catholicism, Islam is still not formally recognized by the state.”

Nicoló Degiorgis didn’t choose an easy subject and we can imagine the time and energy needed to achieve this very well documented project. The work in progress is by the way well described by Caitlin S. Hu on THE STATE.

The photographer – next to his commissioned works for the photo agency Contrasto – is a researcher on immigration issues at the University of Trieste, teaches photography inside the prison of Bolzano and cofounded an association that develops projects to raise social awareness (Zona). He writes that “his primary motivation is to observe how marginalised and minority communities carve out a sustainable environment for themselves”. Well done. How much is still to be learnt about the social situation in European democracies?

Some photographs of Hidden Islam are currently part of the group-show « PUBLISH/CURATE » at TJ Boulting in London. Looking forward to see an exhibition of the whole project, certainly in 2015!

Hidden Islam
Published in Italy in 2014 by Rorhof

Author: Nicoló Degiorgis
Introduction: Martin Parr
Editing: Nicoló Degiorgis and Martin Parr
Design: Nicoló Degiorgis and Walter Hutton
Format: 90 pages / 45 gatefolds, hardcover, 16x24cm
ISBN: 9788890981708

First edition of 1000, Publication date: May 2014. SOLD OUT.
Second edition (Italy €37 ; EU €42 ; Worldwide €47). Shipping starts on September 1st 2014.

Cover image: © Nicoló Degiorgis

 



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