The current exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool is devoted to the work of the Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia. I’d seen a photograph of she’d taken of the dead bodies of a prostitute and two of her clients who had been murdered by the Mafia that had been featured in the Guardian a few months ago.
Palermo, 1982. Nerina worked as prostitute and was drug-dealing. She was killed by the mafia because she did not respect the rules © Letizia Battaglia
Gruesome, but moving, and a visual condemnation of the violence of the Mafia. And that statement sums up a lot of her work. She was a leftist photojournalist in Palermo and a lot of her photographs are about the Mafia and their violence.
Letizia was a journalist who took up photography in the early ’70s, when she realised that it was easier to place her articles in newspapers and magazines if these were accompanied by images. After working i Milan she returned to her native Palermo in Sicily working as Picture Editor for the left wing journal, L’Ora.
Many photographs feature dead bodies of people murdered by the Mafia
Palermo, 1988. Assassination with Palermo plate © Letizia Battaglia
She also depicted a different type of victim of the violence, those who had to live with the aftermath and the consequences, such as in this photograph.
Palermo,1992. Rosaria Schifani, the widow of police agent Vito killed together with judge Giovanni Falcone, Francesca Morvillo and his colleagues Di Cillo and Antonio Montinaro © Letizia Battaglia
Her other main theme was the condition of the working class in Palermo with some moving and harrowing depictions of real poverty.
Not a pleasant collection but very powerful and moving. She was a brave woman and talented photographer.
The exhibition – “Letizia Battaglia: Breaking the Code of Silence” is showing at the Open Eye Gallery on Mann Island, Liverpool until 4 May 2014