Mafia photographer Letizia Battaglia has died

Letizia Battaglia, the Italian photographer who documented the arrests of mob bosses and the bodies of their victims, has died in her Sicilian hometown of Palermo. He was 87 years old.

Among the authorities who announced his death was the mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando, who stood guard next to his coffin during his funeral Thursday at the town hall, the day after his death. The cause of death was not disclosed, but Battaglia had long been struggling with health issues.

Much of his work, mostly in black and white, explored the daily life of those who lived in the poor neighborhoods of Palermo, controlled by the Cosa Nostra. Battaglia also photographed ordinary Sicilians in moments of sadness and joy.

Among his photographs was one of the corpses of a murdered Sicilian governor supported by his brother, who 35 years later would become president of Italy.

Battaglia recalled how on January 6, 1980, he ran to the scene of a fatal shooting of a man in a car and began photographing him before he found out who the victim was.

It was not until shortly after that he learned that the dead man was the governor, Piersanti Mattarella, and that one of the men who ran to hold his body as he was pulled from his car was his brother, Sergio.

Battaglia used to be asked about this photograph and she said that although she captured the scene of a death, it represented a moment of hope for her because Sergio Mattarella would have the determination and the courage to pursue a political career and achieve the most important position. in Italy.

In addition to death on the streets of Palermo, Battaglia also portrayed her life. The photo on the cover of a book of his photographs, “Palermo amore amaro” (Bitter Love of Palermo) shows a very thin girl, almost a teenager, holding a soccer ball in one hand and staring at the camera while she leans back. atop a graffiti wall in the tough neighborhood of Kalsa in 1982.

Another photograph shows a girl washing the dishes in a house so poor that there is a toilet in the kitchen. Other photographs show couples kissing on the beach or kissing in the fields.

Battaglia’s photos also featured scenes familiar to Palermo residents, especially in the 1980s, when warfare between Mafia clans bloodied the city. A 1983 photograph shows three bodies, one on a tiled floor, another on a sofa and the third on an armchair, in an apartment where a triple homicide occurred.

There is also one of an elderly mother with a photo of her son, a radio journalist who dared to expose local gangsters by name and was killed by being tied to a train track and blown up with dynamite on your clothes.

“With her photographs, Letizia Battaglia captured the souls of Palermo,” Senator Pietro Grasso, former chief prosecutor against the mafia, wrote on Facebook when sending his condolences. “The ones of the women and girls he photographed all his life, and the crime, mafia photos he used to get to the crime scene before the police.”

Battaglia captured “The pain of the victims, the arrogance of the mafia bosses, the blood in the streets, the protagonists in the fight against Cosa Nostra”, added Grasso.

He was born in Palermo on March 5, 1935, married when he was 16, and had three daughters. In her thirties, she began to photograph, worked in Milan, then was hired by a Sicilian newspaper to work in Palermo. Battaglia’s work has also been published by major Italian weeklies such as L’Espresso and Panorama.

Battaglia was close to politics, serving as commissioner of culture for Palermo during one of Mayor Orlando’s first administrations and as a representative in the Sicilian regional legislature.

Gifted with an explosive personality, eternally youthful in appearance, Battaglia, whose surname means battle in Italian, worked until the last months of his life. One of his last commissions was the cover of 7, a weekly newspaper for Corriere della Sera. The photo shows 19-year-old Italian singer-songwriter Ariete.

In an interview for the book “Palermo amore amaro”, the interviewer points out that in the end they never talked about the Mafia.

“Well, better,” Battaglia replied. “Why always talk about them? Let’s review them.”

Battaglia’s relatives said his remains would be cremated and his ashes scattered in the sea near Palermo in accordance with his last wishes.

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