Franziska Gilli

With „Bambola“ (the Italian word for “doll”) Franziska Gilli examines the image of women that is presented on Italian entertainment TV every day: an image, characterized by a variety of showgirls, that first appeared in the 1950s and has increased since Silvio Berlusconi’s time as Prime Minister. Revealing costumes, heavy make-up and cosmetic surgery form the foundation of doll-like stereotypes which serve as orientation for young Italian girls. As a general term for these female characters without significant function with regards to content, the word „Velina“ has established itself among the population. It comes from the satirical news show „Striscia la notizia“, which exists since 31 years and has more than 4.5 million viewers every evening. This show is a success story for Mediaset, Italy’s largest private broadcaster, which belongs to Berlusconi’s media empire. After a career as „Velina“ some of them work as anchorwomen, where they must master the challenge of presenting not only content, but their own bodies as well. There are practically no alternative images of women available, particularly during prime time.

  • Artificiality
  • Beauty
  • Optimisation
  • Surface
  • Women

Passers-by in Milan answers to the question “How do you feel about the existence of the Veline on TV?”.

»Tu mi fai girar
Tu mi fai girar
Come fossi una bambola
Poi mi butti giù
Poi mi butti giù
Come fossi una bambola«

Patty Pravo, „La Bambola“, 1968

(You make me spin as if I were a doll, then you throw me down as if I were a doll.)


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Franziska Gilli shares some thoughts and ideas on her work about the female image in Italian society, especially on television, and how it is related to herself as a woman and photographer having grown up in Italy.

»The representation of women on television, undressed, ridiculed, manipulated, partly humiliated, at the institutional level is still perceived as bad taste and not as a restriction of individual freedom of millions of women.«

Lorella Zanardo, activist and feminist
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

In 2015, I started a photo project on the world of interns in and around the EU institutions in Brussels. Two years later, I returned to continue the project and contacted people working as interns. Before starting work in Brussels, some of them had already seen publications of the photos in a report by Barbara Bachmann. It was the first time that I was able to experience how my reporting had motivated recipients to reflect.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

I had known about the Veline for a long time. I grew up as part of the German-speaking minority in South Tyrol when Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister. My subsequent long-term stay in Germany made me aware how wide the gender gap is in Italy. I wanted to approach the topic photographically and started with the greatest media power in the country. My initial research was a shock. I hadn’t really understood how badly the dignity of women was being damaged on Italian TV.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

Visual journalism has no content-related or stylistic problem. We see this in many good projects that draw a picture of a reality that is becoming more and more diverse. What is missing is stable funding. The joy of experimentation in picture editing is increasing, but it often follows visual fashions. For the future, I wish visual journalism more courage in taking up good subjects, not just good pictures. By collaborating with writing colleagues, we often experience that our stories find their way into magazines more via text editing than via picture editing.

Found in Research

„Il Corpo delle donne”
a documentary about the image of women on Italian television by Lorella Zanardo, 2009, 24 Min.

The song „La Bambola”
by Patty Pravo, 1968.

Curated by Moritz Lehmann

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1987 in Bolzano, Italy
From 2011 until 2018, Franziska Gilli studied Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts and at ENSAV La Cambre in Brussels. In her work, Gilli focuses on the stories of people in specific social systems, for instance in a long-term project about interns at EU institutions and a book project about women in Italian society. She is represented by the laif agency.


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