/ 2017 / Portraiture / Personality

The velvet butterfly

  • Prize
    Bronze in Portraiture/Personality
  • Photographer
    Elisabetta Zavoli, Italy

“Waria” people are Indonesian transgender, the name comes from
two words “wanita” (woman) and “pria” (man). They are born male
but, while growing up, they feel to have a female soul: some of
them try to reach womanhood also physically thanks to surgery
and hormone treatment because they don’t feel comfortable with
their penis while others don’t want to change completely
physically and they fulfil femininity through make-up, dress-up
and attitude. Mami Yulie is one of the latter. What kind of
extraordinary identity switch Mami Yulie has gone through? It is
some kind of transformation like that of caterpillars becoming
butterflies: deep, total, irreversible. For this reason, they can stand
as metaphor for transgender people: same person but different
identities, through life.

This portrait series aims to go beyond cultural and geographical
differences of transgender people but, on the contrary, aims to
investigate the inner process of transformation to fulfil one’s

Born in Rimini (Italy) in 1976. She is graduated in Environmental Sciences at University of Bologna in 2001 (110/110 cum laude) and began working as a chemist for an Italian company. In 2005, by the influence of photographer Lidia Bagnara, she focused on developing her photographic vision. She attended Graffiti School of Photography in Rome, directed by photographer Gianni Pinnizzotto.

In october 2009, she was selected for attending the first "Photojournalism Masterclass" at Contrasto Agency in Milan, directed by Denis Curti, and since then she started her career as photojournalist. 

In 2012, she has attended "Identity Masterclass" directed by photographer and curator Enrico Bossan.

Since 2005, she has extensively travelled North America (Canada, USA and Mexico), working exclusively with analogical films. Since 2009, for three years, she has been living in Algiers, documenting the reasons for the missing revolution in Algeria, during the so-called "Arab Spring". Since August 2012, she is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, working primarily on environmental and social issues connected with climate change.

Awards In May 2016 I've received Journalism Grant, by European Journalism Centre, in order to document the loss of mangroves ecosystems in Indonesia driven by the raise of western (EU and USA) consumption of cheap tropical shrimps.