Francesco Merlini

Francesco was born in Aosta in 1986 and he’s based in Milan. After a bachelor’s degree in industrial design at the Politecnico University of Milan, he completely devoted himself to photography. After covering Italian news, he now works mainly on personal long-term projects, reportages and editorials, always looking for a point of contact between his photojournalistic background and a strong interest for metaphors and symbolism. 

In 2016 he was selected by the British Journal of Photography in order to be part of “The Talent Issue: Ones to Watch” and in 2020 Francesco was shortlisted for the “Prix HSBC pour la Photographie”. In 2021 he’s been one of the nominees for the Leica Oskar Barnack Award.

His pictures have been published on national and international magazines and newspapers including Washington Post, Financial Times, Le Monde, L’Espresso, Internazionale, Corriere della Sera, D La Repubblica, Sette, Wired, Gq, Die Welt, La Stampa, Rolling Stone and his projects have been exhibited worldwide in collective and solo exhibitions.

Francesco’s first book “The Flood”, published by Void, has been released in 2021.

In parallel with his photographic career, in the last five years Francesco has coordinated the international documentary agency Prospekt, taking on the role of photo editor and curator, working closely with some of the most awarded contemporary reportage photographers and with the most important magazine from around the world. 


Francesco Merlini

Sometimes I feel like many photographers, including me, have perhaps stopped looking for what, for better or for worse, is extraordinary and unrepeatable in our world.
In contemporary photography, after some successful experiments by the great masters, the gaze has increasingly turned to the inanimate and everyday panorama, struggling for a “modern” photographic language and claiming the extraordinary nature of the mediocre to hide a rampant rashness, superficiality and laziness. All this created a fertile ground for an arid formalism made up of headlights, fruit, hands and pipes.
Still lifes for docile eyes.

February 22, 2021



Francesco Merlini

It happens sometimes that you take a photograph because something has caught your attention and then, when you see the picture you’ve taken, you discover details that were invisible or maybe just too small to be seen while time was flowing and the world was moving. A new reality emerges, things that were invisible, now are tangible. It’s photography and has the special power to make detectable what is hidden. Now more than ever, it’s a tool to break the hasty blindness that affects our species revealing what’s concealed behind  the curtain of routine.

I took this picture in Tbilisi. I was walking around and at a crossroad I saw an old soviet car passing by. I took a picture because of its squared nostalgic shape. Later, when I arrived at the hotel, I saw it on my laptop and just in that moment I noticed that there was in the windshield what looks like a bullet hole. 

November 14, 2020



“Ten, nine, eight”, the electrified crowd chants in chorus. “Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, go!”. Within seconds, a myriad of colorful cars roars into action and start racing and crashing into one another. Demolition derby is a fight to the end with a simple idea behind, elimination through destruction.

Beginning in the later half of 2008, a global-scale recession adversely affected the economy of the United States. A combination of several years of declining automobile sales and scarce availability of credit led to a more widespread crisis in the United States auto industry that has its heart in Michigan where more than 800,000 people lost their jobs between 2000 and 2009 as the subprime housing bubble burst, sending hundreds of thousands of homes into foreclosure as the automotive industry collapsed among the rubble, leading to the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler.

Demolition derbies take place all over the United States and especially in its most rural and poorest areas but in Michigan, where the automotive industry was born, cars and motors have always been a sort of cult for the whole population, a cult that finds his most powerful expression in the the desire by men, women and kids to build fast cars from wreckages and race in temporary dusty arenas where crowds of adults and children cheer for their steel gladiators, keeping communities together after the worst recession in generations that hit them so hard and that now, after many years of uncertainty, maybe is coming to an end, maybe.

Yes, maybe.

During my first trip in this state, on august 2019, I spent one month traveling thousands of miles in order to photograph a series of demolition derby events that took place all over the state. The result is a series: “He’s Come a Long Way That’s My Boy”. To continue this project I’d have gone back for another month in the summer of 2020. Everything was set, I’d have gone back in the southern and central part of the state, focusing on the social and economic background that made Michigan the epicenter of the motor industry and more recently the epicenter of the socio-economic crisis that has affected the whole United States and that has laid the groundwork for the rise of the populism that beard the ascent of Donald Trump.

I was trembling like a pilot on the starting line, waiting for the sound of the siren, but then something happened and going back in those areas of rural United States has become suddenly a mirage. Maybe I’ll be back in fall. “Have you seen the news about USA?” Ok, maybe I’ll be back in spring. “Are you sure? Things gonna be long over there”. I’m sure things gonna be better. “Have you heard they wanted to kidnap the governor who imposed the lockdown?”. Ok.

I really don’t know when I’ll be able to go back there and continue to photograph. Maybe what is happening has cracked the topic I was investigating. Maybe the uncertainty that has characterized those places for decades have been trespassed by new and more universal hazards that makes my quest dated.

I’m still trembling, I want to see the tracks that have been left on that ground from what happened. Later I’ll decide the course to take.

October 12, 2020


Francesco Merlini

The process of discovery, the process of unveiling someone’s fortunes or misfortunes of tarots’ reading is not far from my idea of photography but there are more than one analogy with tarot cards: in almost all my bodies of work almost every picture has an evident subject, a single element, a person or an object that throughout the photograph, acquires a larger meaning, becomes a symbol of something bigger and collective, a new archetype: the child, the staircase, the mask, the hanged child. Usually, as a photographer, I don’t want to leave a complete subjectivity in the reading of an image; I try to suggest the meaning of my pictures but, as with tarot cards, different readers give different meanings to what they see.

January 22, 2020


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