Photo project

Portrait Therapy: Niko Coniglio’s Project About His Mother

Italian photographer Niko Coniglio has been photographing his mother for six years. This helps him restore the lost connection with a close person and develop his photographer’s skills.
Niko Coniglio Age 28

Born in Poggibonsi, lives in San Gimignano. Studied Media Sciences at the University of Siena and Photography in Brera Academy of Fine Arts in MIlan. Freelances for Jazzit. Winner of multiple prizes at International Photography Awards, Moscow International Photo Awards and Paris Prix de la Photographie.

I lost my father when I was three months old. I spent my early years with my mom and my brother, but then I moved in with my mother's parents, whom have grown and raised me. I spent my childhood with my grandparents, and they were like a father and a mother to me. After my grandpa died, I was put into foster care with a family from San Gimignano, with whom I'm currently living. The time I've spent with my mother in my whole life is very little. Probably this is the main reason that led me to start this project.

I started photographing my mother to learn how to use a camera. I continued doing it in order to spend some time with her. I'm still photographing her to witness and tell our story. Photography is a sort of bridge in our relationship and helps me get to know her.


The project is called "Daniela, Portrait of My Mother", but it's not only my mother's portrait. In this work I represent her life's situations or events, but also the ones that directly impacted on me, as well as my own family experiences. Sometimes I simply try to stage situations that become real, and a memory, and an experience in the very moment I shoot them.

This project is also one of my main study tools, a way to prepare myself for the work I do and present myself at a professional level. It's a business card for my personal way of shooting photos.


She agrees to pose for me, of course. Sometimes she's the one who's asking me to take some photos. It's a game for her, a way to spend some time with me and an opportunity to redeem herself for her deficiencies. She sees in this her second chance as a mother.

"Of course, some painful cracks developed in my soul and I lived away from reality for who knows how long". This is one of the sentences my mother wrote in her diary, which offers an important reference point for this work.

It’s not easy to photograph a person for the relationship you have with her. The difficulties I encountered with her were mostly on an emotional and relational level. Memories, misunderstandings, unspoken words and fears get in the way. I’m not saying it’s always hard. Obviously, there are lighter moments in which we simply have fun.


This is my life’s project. I mean, it’s about my story and the story of my family. It’s about what shaped me as a human being, even at a professional level.From a psychological point of view, digging into our past and facing hard memories is important work for ourselves. I think it helps in processing pain and suffering. This is the project I’m the most attached to on an emotional level. In the future it’ll be wonderful (painful, yet wonderful) to look at this project and to have this kind of a memory of my mother. For now, I think this is the most beautiful gift I could give my mother and that she could give me.


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