Maurizio Cogliandro – Lidia, The Sky is Falling

This selection of photos is part of a work that I have created together with my mother during the last two years of her life.
My mother passed away on the 14th February 2005.
After being diagnosed with an ovaries tumor in the Spring of 2000, she spent her days composing with me a diary of images. The saying goes that a photo speaks a thousand words, but this reality is so intimate that both words and images lose all their value.
These photos aim to be the most truthful and essential, not a social allegation, but a testimony of our bond.
The one who is approaching death longs for life, a life lived with his own family until then, when his status changes and is therefore unknown… illness catapults us in a new condition, these are the days of those who are drawing near death, but who are not necessarily conscious of the fact that it is going to happen.
The ones who really suffer ask, dream to live and invent something, because they don’t know where else to take refuge.
Hope and awareness blend into each other in their mind, and the feeling that is generated enriches each and every one of their daily actions.
My mother made herself completely available to me, she fully trusted my vision to tell people not only about her illness, but also her pain and her abandonment.
I hope I have helped her to understand herself.




Maurizio Cogliandro was born in Bracciano (Rome) in 1979. He studied photography at Leeds College of Art and Design (Leeds, UK) and then at the Scuola Romana di Fotografia (Rome). His works have been displayed at a number of museums and national and international galleries. In 2010 he publishes Lidia, the sky is falling an intimate and private diary about his mother’s last years. He joined Contrasto Agency in 2010.


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Maurizio Cogliandro


13 Responses to “Maurizio Cogliandro – Lidia, The Sky is Falling”

  • “an intimate and private diary about his mother’s last years.”

    I never know what to say about such personal work. There are many emotions photographs simply can’t convey adequately, the intensely personal being part of that. Some of these photos would work well illustrating a story…this story begs for words as well as photos. From a technical standpoint, the sequencing is confusing to me.

  • Maurizio, grazie a te e tua mamma.. to me no words needed, the pictures take you there..

  • I remember the exhibition in ST in Rome… and the book (it’s possible to buy the book on line!). Great and touching work. Not only for the subject that is of course something personal/special. I’m talking about the story and how it’s narrated. Was this one between the 50 selected for EPF?

  • Lidia, you and your Mother were very brave in making this essay. I hope you find some comfort with it.


  • Lightenings, VI

    Once, as a child, out in a field of sheep,
    Thomas Hardy pretended to be dead
    And lay down flat among their dainty shins.

    In that sniffed-at, bleated-into, grassy space
    He experimented with infinity.
    His small cool brow was like an anvil waiting

    For sky to make it sing the prefect pitch
    Of his dumb being, and that stir he caused
    In the fleece-hustle was the original

    Of a ripple that would travel eighty years
    Outward from there, to be the same ripple
    Inside him at its last circumference.

    -Seamus Heaney, Lightenings

    “Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto”-Mario Giacomelli


    And how do we negotiate grief, that language to which we have been born? And how do we begin to speak of the moment when we were first held, of the moment when we were first spoken to as lullaby and lecture? And how do we speak of all those moments that made us, as if from a small, pliable cup of clay, that can begin to speak of the alphabet of the life that we have become? And how do we begin to accept that which created us shall be shorn from us, that that which stuck light upon our tongue, that that which gave breath to our hunger-sucking body, that that which us made us who we are beyond words and beyond pointed navigational points? How to express not only the leaving of things, but more importantly, the staying of things? With words? With gestures? With broken, drifting things?

    How does one express that the one who first caressed our face, that the one who first slipped themselves, bodies voice body blood and milk, inside us remains inside us? How does one one speak of accepting, if even in awkward revolt, that they shall both depart and remain inside us and stain not only our lives and memories but point the way in which we continue to see through the fecund and taupy world around.

    Grief not only stains but, oddly, miraculously it births a cleansing that allows a seeing past that initial grief, the way Lightening in its vicious and violent arcing illuminates the dark bark of trees until the space around becomes seeable and negotiable. In this work, a clock work of sorts, i see a path through all all heartbreak and all the wearied hope: the light of someone whose presence is not diminishable, but is present.

    Maurizio: these pictures carry the scent of not only grief, but of something more long lasting. These pictures carry the voice of now, of you, of a simple truth: even in evisceration, we linger behind and forward to those we have bemarked.

    It is impossible to look at these photographs without thinking of all those that i have loved and lost, not because the subject is about death, but because the subject is how powerful the living mark us, how filled with them each of us are. I cherish that you have taken the most important truth about our lives (that everything we love and everything that made us will leave us) not as sentimentality but as strong, beautiful celebration. Your mother is not a victim in this series, but is a strong and embracing presence, whether that is the woman who battled the deterioration of her body by her cells onslaught or the woman who knit together photographs and stitching and children.

    It is impossible to look at these photographs without thinking of all the extraordinary work that Giacomelli did as testament of life and death. This is not to say that, in any way, this story is influenced by his work, but rather to suggest that the brilliance of connection is that 2 photographers, separated by decades, find themselves singing of the same lives, a universality of things.

    The ‘non-linear” sequence, for me, is so important and not only makes emotional sense but also, more importantly, truthful sense. We do not loose loved ones linearlly, but in some mad circularity. At moments, they return to us at times lost at times full and vibrant and this not-chronological order makes it even more profound and heartbreaking…..that like all grief and loss we convince ourselves that it shall not arrive, and even when it does, we hope it shall not arrive….health and dissipation, always fighting and returning…


    today marks the 1 week anniversary of the death of a very close and dear friend of mine and over these last 7 days, my thoughts and memories and images of him have shaped and shifted in the same way: beauty and sadness, strength and weakness, moments of circling black and torn pictures and then gestures of similes and refracting light….

    this story needs nothing more, no words, no long comments (forgive me) but only the simple thing:

    we carry and are inhabited by those we love and they mark and make us….just as your mother has marked you and has made this series through your eyes and box’d-cameras….

    ultimately, photography, for me, is testament….not only about all that disappears but all that remains….

    i can’t think of a greater compliment….this work abides and your mother abides and so too the scent you have marked the world by, which is your mother’s voice…

    and the caress upon your face, which is now upon ours….

    thank you for sharing your powerful and beautiful work….


  • First, my condolences for the loss of your mother.

    Your photos spoke strongly to me – none more so than number 12: we all try so hard to grasp and hold on to what cannot be grasped and held.

    I think most good essays are personal – sometimes we turn our cameras outward to get into the personal of others and sometimes we turn it inward, to get into the personal of ourselves.

    To the extent that limited visits from 2500 miles away allowed, I too, did an essay on my parents, my dad in particular, as they moved through the final, miserable stages of life into death.

    I’ve never known what to do with that essay since. There are pictures in there that I cannot bear to look at, let alone to show to anybody.

    Glad you figured it out.

  • I have seen many photo essays on a parent’s journey towards death but none that has captured the FEELINGS so poignantly. Feelings of not only the one approaching death but the ones left behind, especially the one behind the camera. Maurizio has managed to show the suffering and beauty as one, an almost impossible task.

    I offer my deepest gratitude to you, Maurizio, and your mother for allowing us to share moments that one day we too will live. Grazie.

  • Well,I hope that Jim is now satisfied, Bob has put the words for the essay in (almost a thousand for each picture,but not quite).

    I think this is something very personal you have strived to share with us, compassion and silence seem as proper a response we can offer as viewers, as emotional outbidding (for lack of a better translation to the french “surenchere”). IMO, as usual.

  • Maurizio

    Thankyou for this. What can I say. This is very human, very rich and moving. I brings to mind my own life, my elderly mother, all that. It convinces me of the need to continue to celebrate my life.

    Thanks again

  • maurizio,

    thank you. this calls to me on a personal level too. what is there about pictures that can make you think and feel more than you have to… especially somebody else’s.. there’s too much thinking going around here sometimes.

    i envy those who have the skills to convey what they feel, you as the photographer here… and bob who can put to words so eloquently his current grief.

    nothing in the world could be more soothing than the release of such a painful experience, there is such a need for the human spirit for understanding and a limit for what one can bear. i bear the burden of your loss with you… unconditionally and thankfully. i hope that someone also bears the burden with me when my time comes.. which is inevitable. sharing grief is the only way we can tolerate this terrible world.

  • As much as I have love for Bruce, I am sorry that your essay was posted so close in time to his; it feels we’ve been overwhelmed with photo goodness lately.

    I’m sorry for your loss. Having myself lost a parent and a uh step-mum and a brother, I have an idea of what you’re feeling.

    I think the mystery in this essay is perfectly indicative of the mysteries of death. Captions would detract from that. Sometimes we don’t want to give everything.

    This essay is intimate, painful, and true. Can we ask for more?

    It is also accomplished, it is strong compositionally.

    But, mostly, it just bleeds feeling. And it will stay with me for a long time, on both my journey through photography and through life. Thank you for that.

  • I played your essay before I read about your essay. I totally got it! I’m particularly drawn to 13 because I think it explains everything–especially the bond you shared. Until I read your bio, I would’ve gambled that you were a woman, which is intended to be a compliment since I have such a skewed opinion of how men perceive the important women in their lives. Then again, there is a since of definite masculinity about your work too. Anyway, I’m just sharing what’s in my gut, I’m certainly no expert. I was moved and appreciate that you’ve shared a naked part of your world…you’re brave.

  • I have seen this only now, the intensity of the pictures and the story is really hitting me.

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