“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.
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