Sydney-based photographer Nick Tsindos is drawn to the relationship between human behaviour and their environments – it's why he travels so much. In recent years, Tsindos has debut bodies of work dedicated to New York, based in Melbourne and captured in Milan. His most recent exhibition, Mostly Nice Times, held at Alex & Trahanas in Paddington, is the culmination of his trips to Italy from 2015-2020.
Although taken during a period defined by flux – different partners, ageing family members, various frames of mind – the photographs feel timeless and rooted. Featuring cities between Milan and Tsindos' grandmother's hometown of Taormina, Mostly Nice Times illustrates the lustre of the everyday. They're transportive and evocative of our own trips to Italy during summer – or the ones we're yet to make.
On a similarly balmy day as those depicted, Mostly Nice Times opened to an intimate gathering of Tsindos' nearest and dearest. Guests sipped on wine from Not Wasted and were surrounded by Tsindos' photographs, along with Alex & Trahanas' Puglian ceramics. RUSSH caught up with Tsindos beforehand to discuss the series, his grandmother and why Palermo is his favourite Italian city.
Taormina is your grandmother’s hometown and she sadly passed away this year. What was she like and did she ever give you any advice?
My grandmother was a very strong woman. She raised two boys on her own and was incredibly resilient. Always soft with my brother and I, but you knew exactly where you stood with her at all times. We spent every summer with her from the age of around 11 and I probably didn’t appreciate her enough until I got a little older.
She wasn’t big for advice, but she always insisted that we had good manners and etiquette growing up.
How has your experience of Italy changed with each visit?
The first time I went to Taormina was in 1999 and we had Easter with family and it was an incredible experience. Seeing my grandmother and her cousins together and listening to her reminisce about people they grew up with, looking back now, was so special. Other times have been with extended family or girlfriends or work so my experiences have always differed
I think the experience that really shifted things for me creatively was in 2015 when I left Melbourne to live overseas, and I went to Milan for a bit. I met some people who would walk around the city and take photos and do sketches of specific details that my eye didn’t really recognise at the time. This really opened my eyes to intimacy that exists in detail. It set me on a path of exploring the process of conveying intimacy. Even though my style has slowly evolved, I think most forms of my work has an intimacy to it.
Do you have a favourite town?
Hmm, they’re all beautiful. I’m a massive Palermo fan but I guess that’s a bigger city
On a drive from Palermo to Taormina, I by chance stopped at this town called Milazzo and it’s somewhat imperfect but a lovely stop over – I think I took only one photo there and it’s in the show. We spent a couple hours just wandering around looking into people’s courtyards with their beautiful washing and linens hanging. Incredible details.
I’ve had a really nice time in Cefalù too. You can't go wrong along that coastline.
What’s your favourite Italian word or phrase?
It's a pretty fun place to try and speak the language. I'm absolutely useless, but I think if you can nail a solid “prego” and maybe a charismatic “ciao bella (or bello)”, I think you’d be set.
We have a habit of looking at our holidays with rose-coloured glasses, images can contribute to this idyll. I like that the title of your exhibition recognises the lumpy bits in between, was this intentional?
Yeah for sure. As I touched on above I've been there with family (close and not so close), solo, ex's, and friends. I’ve been happy there, I’ve been sad, very sick – had a broken foot one time – so inevitably you’re going to experience a whole range of moments. I do think it’s usually the imperfect moments that you laugh and look back at the most.
Do you have any particularly strong memories associated with any of the photographs?
I have memories attached to every image, but the one that stands out is one of the framed images and it’s just a shot of a family on the beach of Mondello in the water, and it feels really happy and joyful. The day was perfect. It was after I was really sick and this particularly chaotic day at the beach filled with families just brought me back to life.
Below, catch a glimpse into opening night of Mostly Nice Times by Nick Tsindos as lensed by Lewis Stevenson.