“Behind every photo and every word there is a story”: Anna Adamo reveals the personal truths behind her works

While documenting the subcultures and people around her, the Italian photographer reveals the more intimate stories of her past.

22 February 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read


For Anna Adamo, a photographer born and raised in Milan, her mum is her main muse. “She raised me alone, we are not wealthy people; she worked in a factory for 35 years and still goes to a lady’s house to clean. A life in a small rented house, little money, but an unspeakable amount of love. I consider myself very lucky,” Anna tells It’s Nice That.

At the age of 14, Anna’s brother sadly passed away. Her mum fell into a depressive state and Anna needed to care for her, which resulted in quitting school to do so. Things started to evolve for the better as Anna found herself studying at the Art Institute of Monza, opting for photography as her chosen medium and eventually participating in her first competition, set up by Leica Italia. She won, along with five others, and was scouted by Magnum photographer Alex Maioli who was on the jury. Alex later offered Anna work experience with the collective he founded in 2008, titled Cesura, and gave Anna the chance to get her foot in the door. “I’ve always been a free spirit,” she says. “I have lived through many experiences and travelled a lot with little money. Getting out of my comfort zone from a young age helped me to readily adapt in almost all situations.”

Anna finds herself heavily inspired by the punk and hardcore music scene, which translates into the work that she puts out into the world – that being a documentation of the different subcultures around her. To this day, she finds herself influenced by a whole host of varying creatives and painters such as Antonio Ligabue, Francisco Goya, and directors like Aleksandr Sokurov, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Ken Russel. In terms of photographers, she cites Alessandra Sanguinetti, Bertien Van Manen and Boris Mikhailov as key players, notably for their aesthetic and ability to transcend their view of the world into thoughtful imagery. “I find inspiration in every little thing I do and see,” she continues, “I always stare at people watching their ways of moving and speaking. My mum is my main source; she’s got an admirable strength and power, and she breaks every mould.”

GalleryCopyright © Anna Adamo, 2021

Anna’s signature style is something that’s been constantly evolving, and can perhaps be defined by her curious mind and need to find out more about any given topic. She has a knack for capturing the smaller moments from daily life and the subcultures that inhabit them – the occurrences that might go amiss to the untrained eye. Alongside these personal works, she’s also built a portfolio of commercial work too, like that of a documentary series for Noisy, focusing on Italian artist Speranza, plus editorial shoots for publications like Alla Carta, Hunter Fashion Magazine and Rivista Studio.

With her more personal works, she can spend months and even years delving into a certain topic, or integrating herself with the people involved. “I don’t necessarily try to put people at ease,” she says of how she approaches her subjects. “On the contrary, my curiosity can often be intrusive, and when I take pictures I completely alienate myself from time and place. For me, it becomes a real ritual.” This habit of process tends to place emphasis on intimacy and an “almost out-of-body experience” that sometimes ends up becoming a blurry memory. It’s a whirlwind of an experience for Anna, who refers to herself as an “extremely nostalgic person” that finds the process of picture taking both joyful and quite the opposite. “The person and the photographs in my world play both a beneficial and destructive role, because for me they are extremely painful.”

As mentioned, her mum often takes the stand as her muse. There’s one imagine in particular that Anna points out, and it’s one of her mum from a few years back. She’s photographed her mother since the age of 15 and, ever since, she’s used her camera to document their memories together. “I can’t accept the changes and the fact that she’s getting old as, for me, it’s a source of deep-rooted malaise,” she says. “The photos allow me to remember.” Another picture is of a child and a Pottok, an endangered breed of pony native to the Pyrenees and the Basque Country. Anna was staying in the latter and witnessed the child embracing the horse like that for quite some time. “It’s one of those moments where I got lost. I didn’t know what was happening around me and I hardly remember where I was,” she says. “This image never tires me; it reminds me of many things and I like to think that perhaps that child never existed and that he appeared there for me, to have this image forever.”

Throughout Anna’s work, there seems to be a sense of longing and reverie. Every photograph has a story to tell, and usually this navigates around a lived experience or as a means of grappling with her past. “I always hope that people go beyond images and know that behind every photo and every word there is a story, there is suffering, joy, grief and fatigue,” she concludes as to how she wishes her audience to interpret her imagery. “I do not hope for anything in particular, but if it can somehow provoke a dialogue, that will please me.”

GalleryCopyright © Anna Adamo, 2021

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Copyright © Anna Adamo, 2021

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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