She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
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 … (1000peacewomen 1/2).
She says: “My land free from the Mafia: this is my dream, this is my struggle” … and: “I am angry and will most likely die angry” … and: “We Sicilians suffer,” says Letizia Battaglia. “We live in Italy, in Europe, but this is a war and we are not free. That is not an exaggeration. That is the reality. The Cosa Nostra deals in weapons, drugs and people. It demands so-called protection money from businessmen. It obtains public works contracts by fraud and sells highly toxic waste. The Mafiosi make billions” … (1000peacewomen 1/2).
Letizia Battaglia – Italy
She works for Mezzocielo.
Letizia Battaglia (born 1935) is a Sicilian photographer and photojournalist. Although her photos document a wide spectrum of Sicilian life, she is best known for her work on the Mafia … (wikipedia).
The video: Letizia Battaglia, 5.14 min, added December 27, 2007.
Images results for Letizia Battaglia by Google images-search.
Se says also: … “The Italian Government has stopped the State’s fight against the Mafia. And the Mafia has stopped its war against the State. But the Cosa Nostra has not disappeared. Rather, it has become invisible and changed its strategy. They don’t have to shoot anyone anymore. They already have all the power and are stronger than ever. Policemen and district attorneys confirm this terrible allegation” … (full text).
Documentary: BATTAGLIA, by Daniela Zanzotto.
… Der Dr.-Erich-Salomon-Preis der DGPh geht dieses Jahr an die Fotografin Letizia Battaglia, die sich ganz dem Kampf gegen die Mafia verschrieben hat … (full text).
Vita di una fotografa antimafia: “Lotta, amore e gioia”, Intervista a Letizia Battaglia di Elena Ciccarello (an interview in Italian).
… L’Associazione Belvedere ha ospitato tra gli altri grandi fotoreportercome Uliano Lucas, Letizia Battaglia, Tano D’Amico … (full text, 23 July 2008).
(1000peacewomen 2/2): … Violence and injustice, poverty and lawlessness make the photographer furious. She does not want to accept inhumanity, not in Sicily or anywhere else. This is what Letizia Battaglia fights against. The camera is her weapon. “I do not like that word, I am a pacifist.”
But the camera can be used as a weapon against injustice. With her pictures in black and white, this Sicilian breaks the omertà, the silence that surrounds the Cosa Nostra and gives it strength. The Mafia does not tolerate any violation of its laws. Letizia Battaglia received death threats. “I was very, very afraid.” She does not want to talk about it: “better not.” She continues to take pictures.
In 1975 she became a photo-journalist. For decades she worked for the daily newspaper L’ora di Palermo.
She made Mafia crimes public. Then, members of the so-called “honorable society” killed four to five people daily: district attorneys, judges, policemen, politicians, journalists. “The best ones were murdered,” says Letizia Battaglia. Currently (in 2005) she does not have a camera of her own. 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, even knick-knacks, memories of her mother. Who were these criminals? Mafiosi? Letizia Battaglia shrugs her shoulders. “I don’t know what they wanted.”
Every day she walks through her city. Men and women wave at her. “The people like me,” she says. A homeless man hugs her. She rummages through the pocket of her jacket for some coins. She also gives two euros to an old woman, a beggar with a lethargic gaze and dirty clothes. Letizia Battaglia is on the side of the weak. Laughing, she explains: “That is why I have so many financial problems.”
At an institution in Palermo, she works with the mentally ill, creating theater projects with them.
She invests a lot of time and energy in this initiative. Letizia Battaglia tells about an “unfortunate,” a man with no money. When she was a city councilor she met him on the street by chance. He screamed desperately that he did not want to go to prison again, that he did not want to steal any more. “During his whole life he went to prison again and again.” He stole car radios. Letizia Battaglia could not find work for him. But since the man has been getting a few euros from the photographer on a regular basis he has not been behind bars.
For ten years, starting in 1991, Letizia Battaglia was a politician. It is a part of her life that has now ended. “We simply did not succeed in bonding people to us.” She is talking about the left and “La Rete,” the anti-Mafia movement that the former mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, founded in 1993. Sicily and Palermo are currently governed by the rightist party coalition of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Letizia Battaglia praises the “brilliant policies” of Leoluca Orlando. He gave Palermo back to its residents. The former Christian Democrat had theaters, churches and museums restored, and constructed schools and kindergartens. Under the corrupt influence of the Cosa Nostra that encompassed everything, public life in Palermo had degenerated. When he left office after 15 years there were, in the year 2000, only eight murders, none connected with the Mafia. While he was in office, Letizia Battaglia was head of the environmental department and responsible for prison work. “I wanted to give criminals an honest future.”
Palermo’s port district was modernized, renovations started and the unemployed were taken from the streets. Letizia Battaglia remembers a political slogan from that time: “With the Mafia you are full.
With the honest ones you go hungry.” But the Mafia was stronger. Scandals invented by opposition politicians put pressure on the city administration.
Letizia Battaglia talks about the soldiers that the Italian Government sent to Sicily after bomb attacks on the District Attorneys Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellini in 1992. “The population perceived the military as an insult.” But the Italian Government had sent a signal. The armed soldiers symbolized a State that protects its citizens. This protection is not there anymore. “The State has removed itself again,” says Letitzia Battaglia. And that is why lawlessness and violence prevail once more in Sicily.
A decade ago, thousands of Sicilians rebelled and resisted organized crime. When the Mafiosi publicly announced that they would kill Mayor Leoluca Orlanda, the women of Palermo gave the police a list with many children’s names. On every trip he took with a car, one of these children was to accompany him. He never did it, and he is still alive. What happened to the resistance?
Letitzia Battaglia is silent for a long time: The present political climate has extinguished the anti-Mafia movement. Many initiatives are dormant; only a few organizations are still active. One of these is the women’s group Mezzocielo (Half the Sky). Letizia Battaglia is one of seven co-founders. In her newspaper she publishes reports and analyses on injustice, violence and poverty on a regular basis. Letizia Battaglia photographs pain and dignity. She finds pain and dignity in the eyes of women, a stone, in the landscape. “Sorry, it is simply easier for me to capture the gaze of women.”
Letizia Battaglia too has suffered much. She married a rich Sicilian at the age of 16. Her husband prevented her from working or getting involved in social projects. “I tried desperately to do anything.” When she was 40 she had the strength to free herself from the unhappy marriage, and moved to Milan with her three daughters. She had to earn money. She started to take photos: “Bad ones and without any enthusiasm.” The passion for pictures came later.
After three years in the northern Italian economic and financial center she returned to her hometown Palermo. In the daily newspaper L’Ora di Palermo she became head of the picture department. “We worked
night and day, Sundays and holidays, Easter and Christmas.” The photo-journalist team found out about Mafia crimes over the police radio. In these nerve-racking, life-threatening assignments, Letizia Battaglia discovered that she could express her desire for “justice, freedom and happiness” with her camera.
Pictures of Sicilian lives: Murder: A dead man under a white sheet. Only his left hand remained uncovered. Like a mask, the fabric lay on the face of the corpse. Blood stains on the street. Mourning: an old, wrinkled face. Beautiful and full of dignity. In her hands the old woman holds a framed picture. Her son in a jacket and bow tie. He disappeared many years ago without a trace. Hope: A young girl washes the dishes at a large basin resting on two chairs in a gloomy room. The room is shabby, a neon light hangs from a rafter, plaster flakes off the walls. In the background men and women sit at a table, facing away from the child. The girl smiles as if she is dreaming of a better future. The child reminds Letizia Battaglia of the time when she was ten years old and dreamt of a “more just, wonderful world. The picture tells about the two of us.”
Letizia Battaglia wants to show that not all Sicilians are Mafiosi. “That is what the world used to think.” She has had exhibitions of her pictures in many countries, in the USA, Brazil, Spain. She received international photography prizes like the W. Eugene Smith Award.
Two of her photos were used as evidence in the trial against the Christian Democratic politician Giulio Andreotti, who was Prime Minister of Italy seven times. The Sicilian Attorney General’s office accused him of membership in the Mafia. Letizia Battaglia photographed Giulio Andreotti in a Palermo hotel with the Mafia boss Nino Salvo. The top politician denied ever having met the Mafioso. In 2003, judges found Giulio Andreotti not guilty. The evidence was insufficient.
Since then, says Letizia Battaglia, no one in Italy wants to see her pictures any more. Her photos have become bothersome. The indifference to inhumanity and cruelty makes the photographer deeply sad. “But what can I as a 70 year old do against that?” (1000peacewomen 2/2).
Ad Altidona mostra fotografica di Francesco Cito, 22 Luglio 2008.