A goose egg was given to Nirvana fifteen years ago and she decided to hatch the egg by putting it under one of her hens. When the egg hatched, she named the goose, Letizia. Letivza roams free in Nirvana’s garden. (Diana Bagnoli)

Monica Balestra and her husband have lived with two alpacas for four years in Mondovì, Italy. The Alpacas have lots of open space to roam. (Diana Bagnoli)

Over the summer, The Washington Post partnered with Visura in an open call for submissions of photo essays. The Post selected three winners out of more than 200 submissions. We are presenting the second winner today here on In Sight — Diana Bagnoli and her work “Animal Lover.”

Bagnoli is an Italian freelance photographer based in Turin and has always loved and lived with animals. What started as a personal project in her free time has blossomed into an award-winning personal series.

“I wanted to explore the special relationship that people establish with what I would call ‘unusual pets.’ I had a feeling that I would discover interesting situations and be able to document how someone can be involved in a different kind of friendship,” she said.

Bagnoli finds her subjects in the countryside near her home town in northern Italy. She visits animal sanctuaries, meets animal activists and finds everyday animal lovers, each with a unique story and special connection.

“One man entered in a factory with a balaclava in the middle of the night to save a pig, and another one explained to me how he deeply loves toads because he’s so proud of their survivor spirit,” Bagnoli said.

She photographs her subjects where they are most comfortable, at their homes. She chooses a location that might yield an interesting interaction and show the animal’s connection to the world of the humans who care for them. Bagnoli says her subjects are always happy to share their stories and how passionate they are about their animals.

She recently started a new chapter of her series dedicated to insect lovers. She discovered an unexpectedly large community of people who bred insects or had them as pets. She found them to have an even more personal and tender relationship with their insects, valuing their beauty, character and how important they are to the planet. Her most unusual subject so far is Andrea Bonifazi and his stick insect, Phasmid. Andrea has bred stick insects for 10 years and spends most of his free time observing them.

“They’re like a living book, it’s enough to watch them to understand how their world works,” he said.

Bagnoli learned that pigs squeal quite loudly when they are not coddled and that Alpacas are faithful companions, but most of all that the animals she photographed sought affection and companionship from their humans and vice versa. She is not sure that her series has changed perceptions about our relationships with animals, but she hopes it will.


Lorena is an activist with Animal SOS, an animal sanctuary in Northern Italy, and dedicates her life to saving animals from abusive situations. She is taking care of Bea until she finds a proper home for her in Turin, Italy. (Diana Bagnoli)

Ricky is an Italian mechanic in Cumiana, Italy. He’s vegan and an activist with Animal SOS. He saved this lamb from slaughter during Easter. (Diana Bagnoli)

Bee breeder Vittoria Mambretti. (Diana Bagnoli)

When M.L. was 8 years old, she received her first tortoise, Giulietta. She now has a big family of 50 tortoises, and all of them live freely in her garden. She knows them by name and takes good care of them. (Diana Bagnoli)

Chiara Sgambati, a breeder of pedigree rabbits, inherited her father’s passion for animals and has lived with rabbits since she was a child. She now has a farm in northern Italy, close to Piacenza, with many animals and 50 pedigree rabbits. (Diana Bagnoli)

Tiziana Francisco and her husband are Maine Coon breeders in Ivrea, Italy. They dedicate their lives to Maine Coon cats. Tiziana says the most exciting moment of her life was when she first helped her giant Maine Coon cat give birth. (Diana Bagnoli)

Donatella Di Cola has a small factory in her house that sells butterflies, cockroaches and larvae for scenographic use and animal food. She is based in the center of Italy. Insects are a big passion in her life. (Diana Bagnoli)

Andrea Bonifazi has bred stick insects for 10 years and spends most of his free time observing them. (Diana Bagnoli)

Ornamental chickens walk inside Chiara Sgambati’s house in Piacenza, Italy. (Diana Bagnoli)

Carola, 15, has grown up with her donkey, Bonaventura, who is 27 years old. Carola feeds and walks Bonaventura, and they are very close. (Diana Bagnoli)

Flowers are given to a goat in Cuorgne, Italy. (Diana Bagnoli)

This snake lives in the flat of tattoo artist Edoardo Damosso in Turin, Italy. (Diana Bagnoli)

Enrico Bombonato, from Turin, takes care of exotic, abandoned animals. (Diana Bagnoli)

Read more:

This Instagram account is putting the spotlight on animal extinction

‘As long as I have Weimaraners, I will photograph them.’ William Wegman’s lesser-known dog Polaroids.

A photographer selects images that visualize the impact of climate change

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.