National Geographic — Maria Agnese Cornaro

January 23, 2013 7:02 am

I’m honored to have my first picture printed in National Geographic. The image is an outtake from “The Italians,” a project I shot in 2006.

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The caption: A plastic swordfish head—possibly a cast replica—makes a curious companion for fish enthusiast Maria Agnese Cornaro, of Canelli. She received the head as a gift years ago, after hosting a town exhibition of people’s aquariums.

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After I finished shooting the series I had to whittle down a selection of images to submit to magazines. At the time, I decided to use the below photo of Maria instead of the one National Geographic chose. This one seemed to carry less shock value, and therefore wouldn’t stick out or draw attention from the rest of the series.

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This series was originally taken at a time when I didn't interview everyone I photographed, so when National Geographic selected the "fish lady" and wanted to know more about her, I remembered very little. However I did remember the city in which it was taken, so I called one of two bars in town and asked them if they knew of the "fish lady." Lucky for me, small towns in Italy are the same as anywhere—everyone knows everyone. The bar owner gave me Maria's phone number. When she first picked up the phone Maria sounded confused, then said she wasn't interested in buying anything and hung up on me. I waited a few days and called back, trying to better explain myself. She finally understood, and told me all about her life and the story behind the giant plastic fish. Below are the rest of the pictures from "The Italians."

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