It is difficult to describe which discipline the work of Nico Krijno falls under. Widely known for his editorial photography, when we stumbled across the journal section of his website our eyes were met with collaged works, and in their mishmash of colour and texture we struggled to work out whether they were digitally made or were born out of a unique style of set design.
The answer is the latter. Currently living in a little cottage on a farm outside of Cape Town, Nico has begun gardening and the scraps he finds have formed a new method of working. “It’s an organic dairy and vegetable farm where we rent a house and I have a little studio on the other side,” he tells It’s Nice That. “We grow a few things, do a bit of gardening and try to live as close to the land as possible.”
This dreamy, wholesome existence his family have cultivated developed soon after Nico’s first daughter was born, heading out of the seaside part of Cape Town they called home and moving to the country. “I felt that this is something we just needed to do,” Nico explains. “I wanted space to help change my thinking and find the best possible foundation for a child. A good start. So far, it’s the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done… It’s a lifestyle that burrows inward to the core of being, it makes the surface layer of big city frivolities annoying and inessential.”
Nico’s process begins with foraging, looking “for materials at various scrap sites, dumps, salvage yards and hardware depots,” he says. “I drive around and collect things that have been discarded and take them to my studio. An object that resonates. Old wood, discarded objects, construction site materials, a line, an angle and what kind of shadow it will cast, how can I use it?”
Once collected. Nico explains these findings start “flowing into and from another, like they would in a book”. To achieve this effect he surrounds himself with the objects, working “in sporadic bursts,” he explains. “I would source a lot of objects, rework them with paint or clay etc, then start to work with these objects and then make a lot of work.” The work consists of building large sculptural sets. “They are all 3m x 3m and are precariously balancing against a wall or balancing on their fulcrum,” he says. “I’m interested in sculpture, painting and I’m mostly interested in the in the flatness created by the camera.”
Working in this busy, chaotic way conveys itself in the finished pieces, a method that displays the worth of his rigorous way of designing, showing how “the process is the most important part for me, the effort.” His creative exertion is not just in the act of creating the works but the environment he creates too: “the work is definitely an ode to effort — I like making things very hard for me and working in 37 degree heat in the midday sun sweats a certain violence from your soul”.
Once the hard work is out of the way, Nico adds another layer to the process in Photoshop, where he “tweaks and play with the image until it’s resolved,” he says. “I guess it’s obvious that I want to fool the eye and mostly ask questions.” His ability to trick the viewer, as he did the It’s Nice That team, is by using a range of methods down to the last moments, photographing the work on both medium format film and digital cameras. “A final image might contain up to ten different scans, so time also plays a big role,” as well as “photographing the objects at varying degrees of the suns angle to create warped shadows”.
Nico’s new work shows how much a new environment can influence general creative practice, and although it is entirely different from the work we knew him for his alternate direction is creating some of his best yet.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.