PHOTOGRAPHY: Letizia Battaglia never introduced herself as a photographer of the Mafia. She was taking pictures of Palermo, she says, where the Mafia is simply part of everyday life and routines.
Francesca Borri
Francesca Borri
Italian journalist and writer. She contributes regularly to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 15, 2019

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Letizia Battaglia started taking photographs at the age of 10, but one of Italy’s most acclaimed photographers says that she is first and foremost a person, and not a photographer: «I’m a person who takes pictures.»

And yet Battaglia, born in 1935, is for Italy not only a photographer: she is the photographer – the photographer of the Mafia. In Italy’s national archives, her photos documenting victims of the Mafia are unique. They are not ordinary photos taken by a newspaper’s staff photographer that look like crime scenes after a murder. They are genuine, stark, grisly. Indeed, Battaglia’s photos are real war photos.

When she joins the L’Ora – the daily paper of Palermo – it’s 1969, and in Sicily there are more than a thousand dead every year. And sometimes also five, seven murders per day. It’s the Sicily where Luciano Leggio, long-ruling head of Cosa Nostra, eventually arrested, enters the court, head high: reversing roles and making the policemen behind him look like the outlaws. It’s the Sicily where Battaglia sets up an exhibition in …

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