This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.
Piobbico is a tiny village located in the eastern Italian region Marche, that sits between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. I got there on the first Sunday of September, because that's where this year's Festival of the Ugly took place. Hundreds of people gather in this tiny village annually, in order to elect the next president of the World Association of Ugly People.
Founded in 1879, and later promoted as a marriage agency for the town's single women, the club has more recently assumed a rather playful and sometimes satirical tone. It has also grown into a global association that boasts 25 offices and more than 30,000 members around the world, whose aim is to fight the cult of beauty in modern society.
"Our organization is about not taking oneself too seriously and fighting against the notion of beauty as a purely aesthetic quality," current president Gianni Aluigi explained. "It is obvious that our members aren't 'ugly' in the classic sense. Maybe they aren't beautiful, but we just joke about that."
Gianni went on: "What we do is try to get around as much as possible to hold meetings and listen to the hundreds of people, who write to us about the fact that they cannot find a mate. We do our best to reassure them, though that's not always possible. A couple of days ago, for example, a 60-year-old lady wrote me a letter laying out exactly how much she earns, and describing the properties she owns and asking me to find her a partner. Obviously, there isn't much I can do in this case.
"But the fact that this club exists, and the ever-growing number of our members shows that we are slowly succeeding in combating prejudice," he said, with a hint of pride in his voice. "And when I say prejudice, I mean all kinds of prejudice. Not just the one that has to do with physical appearance, but prejudice against homosexuals, immigrants, Muslims... any minority in the world."
Photographer Mattia Micheli and I spent two days among the "ugly people" of Piobbico. Here are some photos from that weekend.