Nico Froehlich celebrates the places and faces of his hometown in south London
After a stint as an actor, Nico found the medium of photography best suited for documenting his surroundings with authenticity.
- Ayla Angelos
- 31 March 2022
To make an authentic image will usually involve capturing something – or someone – with genuineness, truthfulness and fact. Authenticity is something that many photographers will strive to achieve throughout their practice; by being authentic, it allows you to make meaningful work that both represents yourself and the subjects you’re documenting. This is what Nico Froehlich succeeds in doing entirely throughout his ongoing project, South of the River, which “authentically” celebrates the places and residents of southeast London, the place in which he calls home.
Born and raised in the area, Nico’s first steps in the creative industry were as an actor. “I struggled to find an outlet in my early 20s during spells of unemployment,” he tells It’s Nice That, “and I fell in and out of love with acting.” Determined to build on his craft, he began observing human behaviour and eventually steered on the path to photography. He decided to study at university, after which he gained recognition for his work with South of the River and exhibited in the group exhibition Black Bxy Joy, curated by London-based filmmaker, photographer and set designer Destinie Paige as part of Photofusion. The show closed earlier this month and was a collaborative exhibition presenting a handful of young generation POC artists, those who are redefining the Black experience through their works.
In Nico’s offering for the show, he presented a selection of photos from South of the River, with “full credit” going to Destinie for the curation. “She chose the images from my project and curated them in a way that effectively focuses on Black joy, as opposed to worn out tropes that depict the Black experience in a way that is one dimensional and inauthentic.” The series is built on authenticity and follows an intuitive, mindful and respectful process. First, the photographer walks around for “significant amounts of time” snapping sun-lit shots of the offies and takeaways. There’s no staging, interventions or inflictions on the compositions; his works are naturally candid. Next, Nico will approach his subjects and spends a good amount with them before shooting: “I also invest time in building genuine relationships before any photos are taken, and meet various people on multiple occasions to get to know their connection with south east London on a deeper level.”
South of the River is a compelling and almost diaristic mirror of those who live here. And not only does it show us beautiful a portrait of the city, it also comments on society, diversity and colour. These themes have long centred themselves in Nico’s work, as he often gets inspired by “social realism”, especially that of British cinema and “obscure” dramas from Andrea Arnold, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. “These movies played a big role during my formative years in developing a strong sense of empathy for disadvantaged people who are sadly often neglected in British society.” Additionally, he’s always had the drive to document his surroundings. “I hope my work subtly conveys the beauty of diversity and the importance of inclusivity in a city that is rapidly changing,” he says, “often to the detriment of the disadvantaged.”
GalleryNico Froehlich: South of the River (Copyright © Nico Froehlich, 2022)
Nico Froehlich: South of the River (Copyright © Nico Froehlich, 2022)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.