Lumia Nocito knows no bounds when it comes to exploring the world through a lens. Her combination of the nostalgia and plays on our internet-fueled generation gives her work a timeless stance—and what else can you expect from a young, fresh-faced photographer who’s been trained by Petra Collins?
But Nocito’s work is more than just cool, Insta-worthy photos—it’s a representation of her soul. When I take a photograph I feel it in my bones,” she says. “It is the medium that my body and heart has an inherent understanding of—an understanding that is much more fluent than in other mediums.”
Below, we talk to Nocito about her latest endeavors, her fusion of her relationship to technology, and more.
Where were you when you decided to be an artist? Why photography to capture it?
“I’ve appreciated art since I was very young because my older sister loved to draw. By the time I was in 13, I didn’t have a hobby that I liked and I was super depressed, so I wasn’t really interested in doing anything, either. My sister urged me to submit photos I had taken on my phone to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, an art competition for middle and high schoolers in America. I won gold for all of the photos and thought maybe photography could be my medium, even though I didn’t know anything about it.
“I was lucky enough to take up a photography class offered at my high school the following year. I continued submitting my work to Scholastic and from doing so, the International Center of Photography found my work and contacted my photography professor—they wanted to give me a scholarship to take classes there. I took classes at the ICP throughout high school, slowly building my portfolio and unknowingly participating in a practice that would save my life. By the time I was 16, I was flown out to Miami to participate in the Young Arts program as one of 11 photography finalists. It was there that I realized my purpose in life was to pursue art—it felt as if I had no other option. I don’t believe that being an artist is a decision. For me, it was an epiphany. It may sound like a smooth path, but I worked very hard for all that I have accomplished. I had to take photos and pursue art in order to survive.”
How did you go about conceiving these images? Was there something you were witnessing culturally that you wanted to address?
“These works were created in an attempt to break the formal elements of photography—making something that does not look or have the process of what would typically be regarded as a photograph. All of these works are printed and re-scanned over and over again, or photoshopped and collaged.
“The majority of my photo work is post-rationalized, and I haven’t come to a full understanding of what these works mean. It comes from the perspective of someone who grew up with technology and watched it evolve at an exponential pace.”
Do you think there is a such thing as “American culture,” or is it more like a global internet culture?
“Both cultures definitely exist in many different forms—the amount one engages with the other depends on who you’re asking. I love the internet and have a particularly intimate relationship with it because I watched it grow into an entirely new space. I remember when YouTube came out and it was a wild thing to witness with my peers. Yet, I attach myself to New York culture the most. New York City is, for now (and perhaps forever), the largest association I have to my identity. It is my rock.”
Andy Warhol detailed meticulously in his diary that he would talk and gossip for hours every day on the phone with Edie Sedgwick, why does the phone (both modern iPhone and traditional rotary phone) appear in your work?
“It’s interesting to consider the presence of the rotary phone in these works—again, the process of creating them is done through feeling. Perhaps the rotary phone is something I have nostalgic associations with. I grew up with home phones that had a spiral chord. I like the way rotary phones look, and it’s probably because I grew up with one in the apartment.”
There seems to be an undercurrent of apathy and exasperation in your work. In one image, the subject is smiling behind lots of exaggerated telephone cords; it seems a bit cheeky or how one used to enjoy speaking on the telephone, but the subject also almost appears trapped beneath the cords/communication. What is the relationship between the youth and technology?
“What is technology’s relationship to the youth? In what ways does the youth have agency over technology? In what ways does technology have agency over the youth? Does one power structure outweigh the other? These questions are currently where my mind is as I come to terms with my relationship to technology.”
What is it that previous generations just don’t get about younger people?
“That we are as capable as they are, if not more. That they need to listen to us and see us with genuine eyes. That it is a big mistake not to listen to what we have to say.”
How does fashion and style inspire your work? Are there things you ask people to wear, or is it more like you find the people who fit the image you’re trying to communicate?
“For my personal work, I like to shoot people I’m close to without dressing them up. I like to capture friends in a casual, intimate environment, like hanging out at my apartment. Our intimacy evokes a feeling that I want to capture—a perfect feeling—and having styling or makeup often hinders my ability to achieve that.”
Tell us more about what you want to do next.
“I’m currently working on a group photo book, and I want to have an art show in the fall. I’m working on taking my photography to the next level, but I also want to start applying my practices in other mediums, such as sculpture, video, and digital media, to the types of work that I make in the fashion world.”
Do you think about the future a lot? Is it exciting or not?
“Yes, I think about it too often. It is exciting because I don’t know what it holds, and there are great moments of triumph that we all experience that, for me, remind me about why I worked so hard to be where I am. To think that I will experience these types of moments again is inspiring. The future also isn’t exciting because the world is shit and cruel. There are realities that inevitably hold a constant weight on one’s shoulders—I know that I will die without experiencing a world with gender equality, for example.”
What stigmas do you want to see completely disappear in the next five years?
“There are so many stigmas that I want to see disappear in general, and they are not the kind that can disappear within the next five years. The one thing that would be possible is to see more people understanding that young adults are extremely capable—that we possess the ability to create fascinating work that can create waves in the world.”