Italien: Letizia Battaglia

My land free from the Mafia: this is my dream, this is my struggle.

— Letizia Battaglia

Letizia Battaglia, Sicilian, born in 1935, is a photographer. With her camera she captures Sicilian life: the cruel violence of the Cosa Nostra and the deep pain of Mafia victims. With her photographs, she breaks the "omertà", the silence that surrounds the Cosa Nostra. Although she has received death threats, she keeps taking pictures. From 1991 to 2001, as head of the environmental department, she tried to improve living conditions for the inhabitants of Palermo. With women from the anti-Mafia organization Mezzocielo (Half the Sky), she fights against inhumanity and injustice.

Letizia Battaglia (70) does not have her own camera anymore. A friend has lent her one. Thieves broke into her house in the historic part of Palermo, for the third time. They took everything they could carry: her photographic equipment, her portable computer and many memories. Who were these criminals? Mafiosi? Letizia Battaglia shrugs her shoulders. “I am still alive,” she says. The Mafia threatened to murder the photographer. She does not want to talk about it, “better not.” She continues to take photos. Letizia Battaglia has been making Mafia crimes public with her camera since 1975. Letizia Battaglia tells about Sicilian life in black and white. Violence and poverty, desperation and hope. “I wanted the world to know how much we suffer,” she says. She was a photo-journalist for the daily newspaper "L’Ora di Palermo" during the decades when the Mafia killed four to five people every day in the streets of the Sicilian metropolis: judges, district attorneys, policemen, politicians, journalists. She was 40 when she started taking photographs, out of financial need following the separation from her husband. She has three daughters. “I am a person who resists,” she says. She joined the anti-Mafia movement under the former mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando. She co-founded the women’s organization Mezzocielo (Half the Sky), which also publishes a newspaper, and she initiated theater projects with mental patients. In 1991, she entered politics. She headed the environmental department of Palermo. Letizia Battaglia rebelled against injustice and violence with her camera. The Mafia, she says, has become invisible, but it is stronger than ever. It does not need to shoot anyone anymore, because it is all powerful: “What can I, a 70-year-old, do against that?”