Twenty years after their release, Nike TN is back with Legacy of Disobbedience, a project born from the collaboration between Tedua, one of the most active trapper on the Italian scene, and the photojournalist Gabriele Micalizzi.
The campaign, which was realized in a week between Milan and Genoa, required the photojournalist a period of preparation of three months, using the same approach that he usually has during his travels in war zones. The aim was to restore in all its entirety the image of a shoe that, over the years, has become an icon of urban youth, artists from the suburbs and now represents an entire generation moved by a strange energy, a symbol of positive disobedience.
The Tedua/Micalizzi duo is surprisingly close-knit right from the start and, in addition to their skill, it is also thanks to this alchemy that the project is of fascinating beauty. The trapper and the photographer share a similar background, a difficult story and the desire to do of Tedua, his hunger, is the same that brought Micalizzi where he is today, representing a hope for the future.
“The future is in the hands of the weak who have gained courage.
We met them at the Leica Store in via Mengoni, 4, Milan and we let them tell us about this fantastic collaboration.
How and when was your passion for photography born? Were there any particular encounters during your career that influenced your choice to become a war reporter?
My passion for photography started when I was a kid and I used to make graffiti, I always liked the idea of leaving a mark, of dirtying, of vandalizing. At that time I needed to photograph these graffiti because then the trains on which they were made were leaving, so to have the memory I began to photograph.
Then I attended an art school where I discovered, there was a camera obscura. When I came in, I saw this alchemical process where these prints were taken out, where the photography that came out of development was created and I was amazed.
It’s an incredible language, also because I’m a very impatient person and given my impatience I was annoyed immediately, I didn’t want to think again, to start doing things again, even when I was drawing and doing tattoos I often already thought about the next one. Photography allowed me to channel all my energy into the shot and to do something very difficult, fix it and bring it back in a very practical way. That was the moment when I decided that photography would be the medium I would use, my language.
Then from there, I made those ten meters from the camera obscura to the school library and I saw these French catalogs with all the greatest reporters, from Robert Capa to Don McCullin. I was very fascinated because I had never traveled before and seeing these exotic and faraway places made me think that I wanted to do this job, that I wanted to experience those emotions in the first person. So, a week after graduation I went to work in an agency here in Milan, where I was going with my scooter to take all those photos that nobody wanted to take, like the accident on the Lambro bridge at nine and a half and those things there. There I learned a little bit of the job, to get around, to go everywhere, not to ask permission, that was a bit of a bust, then I started to travel a bit around the world, I went to Australia, to Indonesia where I lived for a while. Then I had the great opportunity to work in this studio with Alex Majoli who is my mentor and a Magnum photographer and from there I did five years with him. Then I started to do reportage, go around wars, conflicts… and then I met Mario.
Remaining on the topic reportage, the first was in Afghanistan in 2009. How was this experience?
Yes, there I expected Apocalypse Now and instead no, but it was interesting because I still learned the basics. For example, once I took a picture of a soldier, I went in front of him during a patrol and when I take pictures of him I see that it makes me in French, “but you’re crazy, you can’t go there, you can’t cross the line where I am, there are mines here”. This was the first lesson of the war. Then I went to Bangkok where I lived for six months and made red shirts, then I went to the Arab springs, I started with Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and I never stopped. I started working with big magazines, like the New York Times and the New Yorker, and from there many doors opened.
How can you have the firmness and lucidity to take a picture while you are literally surrounded by war?
First of all the camera is a filter between you and reality and then you are there because in this great theater of war everyone has a role, even the reporter and the journalist have one. Everyone is there for a reason and the only reason I’m in the middle of a war is because I have to take pictures. So even when a mother cries out for five dead children at a funeral, I’m there to photograph it and I must photograph it.
As for the question of the filter, the camera is undoubtedly a cue not to give you answers, but it is something that gives you the opportunity to ask questions. Thanks to the camera you start to look at reality differently because you are more careful, you still have to frame a situation and although it is emotionally strong you still manage to close the moments in this frame. In any case, however, the war leaves its mark on you, for example, I have lost many people, including a very dear friend. It’s a job that gives both joy and pain.
The reality that you photograph is very far from that of television talent, yet in 2016 you not only participated but also won the first edition of Master of Photography, how was this experience?
I actually participated because I needed money, because doing this work costs a lot, in that particular period I needed money to finish a project on Libya.
Also, I had just finished second at the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, which is one of the most important awards in the world, and I was very disappointed because they awarded a photographer who was notching photos. And in that period a girl recommended me this stuff on television with 150k as a prize and so I sent a video and the next day they called me. Once in the race, I was so convinced that I would win that in the end, it happened. That’s what happened and I have to say also thanks to Leica who was a sponsor of this event and who in a moment of indecision told me that in the end I would have to take pictures and there was, in the sense that I am not a mechanic, I am a photographer and I do a photography contest. Everyone was against this because my colleagues told me that I had to take only reportage photos, but they were all high-ranking people, with strong economic bases and this experience gave me the opportunity to have a capital to invest.
This year, on the occasion of the re-edition of the Nike Air Max Plus, you and Tedua have collaborated to the realization of this project. Did you already know each other and how it was to work with each other?
Tedua: No, we didn’t know each other, but we discovered after having some friendships in common and it was immediately, so at first glance, great for us to work together because we are two people loose, sociable, open, it was like when two people who don’t know each other immediately get familiar.
You took the campaign between the streets of Genoa and Milan, what do these two cities represent for you?
Tedua: For me, they are two sides of the same coin. Genoa, as far as I’m concerned, is the sea of Milan, an hour and a quarter away, or rather an hour from the tollbooth and the tollbooth, from Famagosta to the exit of the toll booth going to 160km/h is precisely an hour. I’ve always said that it’s like going from East Rome to Ostia Lido meeting a little bit of traffic, that’s the concept. The great battle phrase that I say is that Genoa teaches the content and Milan the form, so the one could not exist without the other, or at least would exist but losing value.
Gabriele: In the end, Genoa is much deeper, it has very strong contents…
Tedua: A social fabric.
Gabriele: Yes, a social fabric, the concept of community and even the alleys are a world apart, there are many realities, but Milan is much more concept than form is the only city in Italy that is very European.
Tedua: For Italy it’s Europe for Europe it’s Italy.
Gabriele: It’s very contaminated, it’s very dynamic and this thing gives you a lot of drive, there’s frenzy and then I think that Milan is at a very particular time in history, everything is changing and you can see it, there’s artistic ferment, new things are born and anyway rap, when I listened to it in the 90s with 20 other losers from the social center, now there are people like Tedua who were able to take it abroad, it’s a new thing.
Since it entered the market, Nike TNs have become a symbol of urban youth and suburban artists, linked to a concept of positive disobedience. In what aspects of the project with Nike do we find this concept of positive disobedience?
Gabriele: First of all in the choice of Mario. He is perfect because he has a strong history, he has a strong content, but he doesn’t show it off in his texts, on the contrary, he always speaks with a lot of respect for things, instead if you look at many of his colleagues they have this way of showing off anything. So the aim of the campaign was also to convey all this, to try to use a positive idea. You can also live in a difficult situation but your life training, your path gives you the experience to become something else, and this is the important thing. I also find the concept of TN there, the interesting thing is this, it has always been a shoe tied and used in an underground, even at the time when we all wanted it, in the end it was a shoe a bit of the popular underground and still is, but if you look at it now, also taking as an example Mario, this recall the 90s that we have seen them, we have lived them, they see them in another way because obviously, the past has a filter that is your memory, instead his generation has taken cue but has not seen what we have seen us, so it manages to convey perfectly the positive things.
Tedua: Yes, then our generation is in the middle, I had a brother of ’87 that made me live the first Gameboy and also the first Nike tamarre.
Gabriele: That’s right, we wanted to use TN to convey values. I believe that a shoe can become a symbol. I’m doing this example, I’ve been fighting for 10, 12 years and in all wars, I saw this mask of V for Vendetta that also uses Anonymous, which has become in a very anarchic film and the contents of the film have been conveyed through a mask. Here if we think about the TN is the same thing, a shoe can really be the vehicle of positive messages.
Tedua: I would add that when they chose me it is because they are out of the current hinges, away from the cliché of the trap artist. They try to label me even though the scene still can’t understand me. So there is a kind of disobedience on our part in wanting to stay outside the canons but still managing to do a job with a sense.
Last question, do you already have other projects in mind that you can tell us about?
Tedua: I’ve been doing it for 3 years and I’ll go on like this, my only interest is splitting less than tomorrow and more than yesterday. Enough, I have no other interests, for now I’m continuing, improving, from knowing English, to knowing how to sing better, from knowing how to play an instrument, to the way I put myself, improving my communication because anyway the gift of synthesis is an art and above all making music that remains and remains a backbone, an emblematic character, an icon for my generation and those that will come.
Gabriele: I’m going back to my world, I’m going to Libya and maybe I’ll make a story about Milan.