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The observations by Letizia Battaglia

by Alain Chivilò

© Alain Chivilò

Being able to carry out, through photography, a profound and continuous social criticism throughout a human life, visually highlighting a cultural situation without falling into the banal is not easy.
Along issues such as politics, life, death, passion and insightful social portraits of children, women and animals, the photographer Letizia Battaglia has always captured the observation of what was happening, combining it in a cool and mental landscape. Furthermore, her photographic research has further touched the life of the poor and the riots in the squares.
On April 13, 2022, one of the artists known for documenting a representation of the Mafia characterizes Palermo passed away, from murders to grief, from political intrigues to the struggle identified with the figures of Falcone and Borsellino.
Starting from some statements by Letizia Battaglia: “I hardly ever photograph men (they don’t look good)”; “I photograph women, yes, also because I find myself in them”; “In any case, I usually photograph people”; “My job is to document; then, if even the beautiful photo escapes us … “; “I often make a mistake in exposure, shot: I go on all the same until I get the right image, right for me”; “The dead of the mafia? The smell of blood has never left me “; “There is always an emotional relationship with the reality that is observed”; “I get very close with the lens, I use the wide angle”; “I hate photographing thinking about the magazine that will publish the images (the cover, how many pages …)”.

Letizia Battaglia (Palermo 5/3/1935 – Cefalù 13/4/2022).
She has three daughters. She was one of Italy’s leading photoreporters. From 1974 to 1991 she directed the photographic team of the communist afternoon daily newspaper “L’ORA” in Palermo, and she also founded the “Informazione Fotografica” agency. Her images recount with an activist’s passion the bloodstained years of the wars of the Sicilian mafia. With a black and white full of contrasts, her archive overflows with photos that are heart-wrenching in their composition. She created silent and solemn images that are far from the uproar that is often part of the news. Besides the bodies of judges and of nameless victims, she continues to recount her favourite subjects: children and young women portrayed to express a possible future. She was not only a photographer: she was also a film director, an environmentalist, a councillor for the Green Party with Leoluca Orlando’s city council, a member 3 of the Sicilian regional government, and the editor of the Edizioni della Battaglia. She was a co-founder of the “Giuseppe Impastato” investigative research centre. She was the first European woman to receive, in New York, the Eugene Smith award for social photography and, in San Francisco, The Mother Johnson Achievement for Life was conferred on her (1999). In 2007 she received “The Erich Salomon Award” from this German photographic society. In New York in May 2009 she received the “Cornell Capa Infinity Award”. In 1991 she founded “Mezzocielo” a bimonthly magazine for women only. She was on the list of 1000 women signalled for the Nobel Peace Prize, having been nominated by Peace Women Across the Globe. The New York Times nominated her (the only Italian) as one of the eleven most representative women of 2017. She has been asked to give lectures and hold workshops by museums and institutions in Italy and abroad. In 2017 a dream came true when she opened the Centro Internazionale di Fotografia at Zisa in Palermo. She directed it and curates the selection of shows and meetings about historical and contemporary photography.

by Alain Chivilò