I admire prize-winning Italian photographer Melissa Ianniello’s work and her very personal project is very impressive. As she says, this work is about the double taboos of homosexuality and old age in Italy.
Photographer Melissa Ianniello’s long-term project investigates the double taboos of homosexuality and old age in Italy. The subjects of her intimate portraits are a group of gay men and lesbians between 60 and 90 years old, captured as couples or alone in their own homes.
Her photography is excellent, as is her respect for the people she photographs. I always admire work where the images are about the people in the photographs, not about the photographer. The project is called Wish It Was A Coming Out.
Edda Billi, 86 years old, Rome (Lazio)
Edda was born in Follonica, in the coastal area of Maremma. She was a teenager when she fell in love with an older girl who drove a jeep and loved poetry and literature. It was this young woman who introduced Edda to the world of books and culture, and she was also Edda’s first love. The pressure that Edda’s family put on her because of her sexual orientation lead her to move to Rome. She has become an emancipated woman: a poet, an activist with the separatist feminist movement, and one of the first occupants of the Casa delle Donne (a political and cultural centre created by women for women, in Rome). Even today, Edda refers to herself as being in love with women and with life.
Victor Palchetti-Beard, 67, and Gianni Manetti, 70: Florence, Tuscany
Palchetti-Beard and Manetti have been a couple for 43 years. Palchetti-Beard came to Italy in 1975 during his university years. Shortly after arriving, he met Manetti through shared friends and it was true love – but as an American he could not stay long in Italy. So Manetti’s mother decided to adopt Palchetti-Beard in order to help her son start a family. However, this family cannot be made official with a civil union because the pair are brothers from a legal point of view.
Pasquale Ferro, 63 years old, Ischitella (Campania)
Pasquale was born in Naples. He had a difficult childhood, full of misery and violence. As well as that, he was denied the opportunity to attend school. Despite that, he was able to redeem himself over the years: he discovered that he was gay, and he came into contact with the homosexual scene in Naples. He began writing and doing theatre, letting himself get inspired by the “street” and its stories. In time, he became a playwright and also worked as a journalist. His will to describe the “street” – the one which he knows personally – evolved from the desire to give some dignity to the so-called “outcasts”, who don’t have a voice.
Maria Laura Annibali, 75 years old, and Lidia Merlo, 73 years old, Rome (Lazio)
Maria Laura and Lidia have known each other for 17 years. Their love blossomed at a mature age, but it struck like a classic bolt of lightning. It was Lidia who won over Maria Laura: on top of a relentless courting full of sweet nothings and poetry, she wrote a dedication to Laura one night on the wall in front of her house: “Laura, I am passionately and hopelessly in love with you”. From that day on, they began dating, and soon after they became an official couple. Recently, they got married in a civil union.
Ianniello writes about her work:
I am 29 years old, I am lesbian and I did not succeed in talking to my grandparents about me, about the real me.
Wish it Was a Coming Out originates and starts there, from a suffering lie that lasted for years…
For years, I carried the burden of not being able to share the discovery of my lesbianism with my grandparents, missing out on the chance to have a shared understanding with them…
… And so, as an indirect tribute to my grandparents, I began exploring the life experiences of people who were similar to them in terms of age, but similar to me in terms of sexual orientation. Here you are Wish It Was a Coming Out, an ongoing long-term project, with which I want to investigate the double taboo related to homosexuality and old age in Italy. The protagonists of this work are a group of gay men and lesbian women between sixty and ninety years old. I began to connect with them at the age of 27, in 2018, when I got their contact details through word of mouth and some online dating apps. Later, after a first telephone chat, I started travelling around Italy to meet those who wanted to share their personal story. In doing so, I captured smiles, worries, thoughts, love and desires, which are rarely given a voice. I decided to photograph these people as couples or alone, in their own homes, in scenes of true intimacy.
These quotes are from Wish It Was A Coming Out. You want to go to the site, both for her complete statement and for the other work from her project, including stunning photos of spaces the people inhabit. The images speak to each other in ways that create a powerful statement.
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