Health

'A different world, not a worse one'

Published 8:31 PM ET, Sun October 4, 2015
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Monia, the sister of photographer Giovanni Cocco, lies in bed in Sulmona, Italy, in 2006. She suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth. Giovanni Cocco
"I used to share my bedroom with Monia for many years," Cocco said. "She often woke up in the middle of the night, gesticulating, pointing up with her fingers, as she meant to say something. I've always been looking at her since I was a kid, trying to catch what she does." Giovanni Cocco
Cocco's mother has taken care of Monia for 46 years. "I always saw my mother as a woman that couldn't choose her life, and who had to sacrifice it to her love for a disabled daughter," Cocco said. Giovanni Cocco
Cocco presents Monia in an all-encompassing light, showing his sister within her defined visual space while also seeking to understand the unseeable -- her inner thoughts. Giovanni Cocco
"The home is her universe," Cocco said. "The family, her belongings and habits give her peace and quiet." Giovanni Cocco
"Our mother, Fernanda, takes care of her every day, every hour, giving her security and serenity," Cocco said. Giovanni Cocco
"Where is my sister? What is she dreaming about? I've been questioning this since we were kids," Cocco said. Giovanni Cocco
Monia walks in a cornfield in 2013. Giovanni Cocco
"One day, I will take care of her," Cocco said, "and she will become part of my everyday life. (Photographing) is the first step for one to enter the life of the other, with both the joy and the difficulty of the encounter." Giovanni Cocco
"Monia lives in habits, simple gestures and long moments without words or actions," Cocco said. "A world away from everything else, solitary, confined, but not empty." Giovanni Cocco
"Photographing her is an act of knowledge and research," Cocco said. "It is a way to understand her, wondering what she thinks and what she wants. From life, from me." Giovanni Cocco
Monia swims in Sulmona in 2014. Giovanni Cocco
"The more I spent time with my sister, the more I felt that being disabled means living in a different world than ours -- and not a worse one," Cocco said. "I finally understood that Monia is a happy and peaceful woman." Giovanni Cocco
"I enjoyed the whole process," Cocco said. "It turned out like a game -- taking us back to our childhood together, when age and innocence cut off all the distances making the two of us connected in one thing." Giovanni Cocco
"My father used to take pictures of my sister since she was a little girl," Cocco said. "Some of these images are still influencing me." Giovanni Cocco