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Elisa L. Iannacone

THE SPIRAL OF CONTAINMENT: RAPE'S AFTERMATH, (SPIRAL) a multi-media experiential exhibition by Mexican-Canadian photographer, cinematographer and foreign correspondent, Elisa L. Iannacone, was first exhibited at The OXO Tower Bargehouse Gallery in London in 2018, to an overwhelming response from media and public alike.

Consisting of 24 photographs, soundscapes and installations, and one hologram, each work in the SPRIAL suite of photographs features a single rape survivor, in an elaborately constructed, fictional magical-realist portrait. The works were created by the photographer in collaboration with each subject, reconstructing and reframing the original traumatic experience into one of empowerment, agency, and revitalised identity.


The portraits were photographed in a range of locations and countries, including seven in South Africa. Elisa consulted with a therapist to produce the work. The Spiral project, and method, evolved from the photographer's own experience of rape.

SPIRAL commenced a global tour from South Africa in 2022, through Africa Contemporary Art and Just Art International, with the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, The exhibition has been specially curated for installation in the chilling Isolation Cells of Number 4 Prison in South Africa's premiere human rights site, CONSTITUTION HILL, Johannesburg - to July 2022.

"My career as a cinematographer and photojournalist came to a sudden halt after I was sexually assaulted in 2011. After the assault, I felt like a shadow of a person, without much direction, and barely any capacity to navigate earth.

Through art therapy, I started to process my assault creatively:  I kept imagining myself stripped bare, with these antler wings. They had once had feathers but were no longer usable. I reached out to other people, who had been raped to explore the images that spiralled in their own minds. The result became a project that aims to impact people around the world". 




Elisa L. Iannacone was born and raised in Mexico. She studied at universities in the UK (City University London) and Canada (York University). She lives in London currently ,and is married to a South African.

As a cinematographer, she has worked in six continents for BBC, Newsweek, and National Geographic, at times covering conflict zones and humanitarian crises.

Elisa L. Iannacone is a published author (The Spiral of Containment: Rape's Aftermath), guest lecturer (York University, University of Dublin), speaker (TEDx, PSA, Global Speakers Federation), and the podcast host of the global campaign Conversations on Consent to advocate for equality and human rights.

Elisa founded Reframe House media agency to shift views on social justice through multi-media.

A recent assignment, on Cameroonian refugees, shot at Constitution Hill prior to lockdown is featured in Newsweek and BBC (“Humans of the Forgotten War”, June 2021,).


“Where war, violence and rape – and its depiction photographically - destroy agency, depicting/exploiting their subjects as objects of voyeuristic pity or horror, here, the ‘victims’ tell their own stories, and gain agency through sharing their story. The subjects take control of both the photographic image, and their own lived identity.” Kathy Berman, Founder, ACA / JustArt.

Iannacone’s approach deliberately avoids the grainy realist conventions of documentary photography, where subjects inadvertently become victims of horror and trauma. Instead, Iannacone’s training as a cinematographer (fiction and documentary), coupled with her South American heritage provide a source for what has emerged as a magical-realist photographic style – at once horrific and traumatic, but rich, luxurious and mysterious - hauntingly beautiful..