Tiana Madera’s grandfather was in love with Italy.
His parents were from Sicily and, while growing up in Brooklyn, he had always been proud of his heritage. He had a fondness for the country he’d only visited once in his lifetime.
Tiana thought of her grandfather all the time while she was living in Italy. She always noticed the nonni, or, grandparents, around her, and found it oddly comforting to live in the country he loved so deeply — especially since, while she was away from home, her grandfather passed away.
After his death, photographing the nonni around her became a project, one dedicated to his memory.
That’s how @notmynonni began.
The photos focused on simple moments. Snapshots of everyday life for nonni and nonne (grandmothers) around Italy.
Taking walks. Sitting on benches. Reading the newspaper. Driving.
Playing music. Getting a perm. Walking their dogs. Peering out windows. Shopping.
Visiting museums. Sketching the scenery. Making pasta. Chatting with friends. Texting.
There’s a joy in scrolling through the photos, one that exists because Tiana recognized a few pieces of humanity we all share. Family. Time. Loss. Love.
At first, the account was completely comprised of Tiana’s own photos. Eventually, she moved back to the United States and neared the end of her stockpile of nonni photos, but luckily, the account and the associated hashtag had taken on a life of their own.
The nonni photos she posts now are primarily from others. It feels comforting when she comes across photos that have tagged #notmynonni. Whether or not the original poster has shared an accompanying message, she tries to tell stories with the photo and caption.
“There’s a romance to it,” Tiana said. “The long relationships I talk about or sometimes a tragic loss I mention — the stories I tell in the short captions are meant to inspire emotion. We all want to feel something, and I try to express that in each post.”
The Not My Nonni community is attentive, too. If she doesn’t post a new photo every few days, she’ll get messages asking if everything is okay.
“The love for this account is greater than I ever dreamed,” Tiana said.
I have a feeling Tiana’s grandfather, Ray Milici, would not be at all surprised by the account’s popularity.
He probably would have been Not My Nonni’s most devoted follower.