«The power of the Mafia is institutionalised»

MAFIA: Modern Times Review met the Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia in the Berlinale Lounge to talk about her photographic work and the Italian Mafia today.
Astra Zoldnere
Zoldnere is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 21, 2019

Written with Truls Lie.
Shooting the Mafia (2019, by Kim Longinotto, read the review here) is a portrait of the life and work of Letizia Battaglia – the only photographer who took photos of the Mafia in the bloody 70s. It was the time in Sicily when people were killed by the Mafia or Cosa Nostra on a daily basis, and Letizia captured these tragedies in her touching black and white photos.

When you started taking photos to accompany your articles when you were 40, you realised that you preferred photography to writing. Was it a coincidence or perhaps destiny?

 I don’t believe in destiny. It was a choice. I was the only Mafia photographer at the time. I really opposed the Mafia’s actions with all the means I could find. Yes, I’ve received death threats and was asked to leave Palermo, but I stayed and kept doing it. It’s not only in my photographic work that I’ve resisted corruption, injustice and the wrong corners. I have been fighting against it – with and without my camera.

 Your photos of the Mafia are taken in extreme environments, but there’s so much poetry and sensitivity in them. How do you manage to achieve this in such a tough situation?

Photography is a fantastic instrument, which is dependent on the person who uses it. Photos also reflect the personality of the photographer. If a person is cruel, the photos will reveal it. If a person has poetry and sensitivity inside of them, then this would also be visible in their photos.

As a woman you had to struggle to be able to take pictures. Do you think that you would have taken different photos if you were a man?

If I was a man, I would be different. I love photos taken by women. If a woman has talent, she is much more courageous, much more attentive, and she respects her subjects in her photos more than a man. In general, there are not many female war photographers. I think that women are more likely to explore life and what life is. Not …

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