Letizia Battaglia (1935) passed away on 13 April, 2022. “The Photographer of the mafia” documented the artrocious murders, committed by the mafia between 1973 and 1993. These murders were the consequence of the decades lasting battle between different mafia families and the state. The murders on the judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsalino marked the end of this period.
For years Letizia slept next to her radio, and was usually the first to arrive on a crime scene to document it. She received several threats from the Mafia and for a while she lived in Paris, for her safety, as she was advised to do so by Leoluca Orlandi, the mayor of Palermo. She was part of the administration of the city of Palermo for years and it was her purpose to give Palermo a more human face, in a way she gave back dignity to the people of Palermo. But still the Mafia was on her back: trees she planted in parks she created were cut down in the night.
Back in 2001 we got in touch with Letizia for the first time. Contacting her and finding out more about her was pretty difficult in the early days of the internet. The documentary “the women with the camera, Letizia Battaglia” made in 2001 by Hans Keller and Hein Aalders was how we learned about her and we were immediately fascinated by her photographs. Besides the strength of the image itself in the contrast of shadow and light, they were also perfectly composed. Besides we thought her battled needed a larger stage. When we first approached her to make a show, she reacted surprised: “My photos are aweful, they are terrible!” as she would often say.
In 2003 we made the first exhibition with her photographs in our gallery. Later she had exhibitions with a.o. Massimo Minini, Brescia, 2012, Maes en Matthys, Brussel, 2012, Centre Pompidou, Paris 1999, in museum MAXXI in Rome 2017 and in 2019 Palazzo Tre Oci in Venice.
Her whole life, Letizia Battaglia fought with passion against the power of the mafia and for justice. She strongly believed that change would have to come from women, men have induced to much hurting.
She received numerous rewards a.o.: Mother Jones, Achievement for Life Award, 1999, The Dr. Erich Salomon Award, Germany, 2007, Cornell Capa Infinity Award, NY, 2009. In 2008 she made the film “Shooting the Mafia” with Wim Wenders. She also played a main role in the satiric documentary “The Mafia is no longer What it Used to Be” by Francesco Maresco.
We cherish the memories we have of her pugnasious, omni questioning, always very direct, but very warm personality. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked with her for more than 20 years. Our heart goes out to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all who have had the privilege to know her and who thus loved her. For knowing Letizia, meant loving Letizia.
Leoluca Orlandi said on 14 april, 2022 :
“Letizia was part of the history of the city, for her politics was her existence, and she always used her photo’s to find meaning in life. She made visible what was invisible in the city of Palermo.”
Letizia Battaglia was an internationally acclaimed icon in the art world, and a symbol of the liberation of Palermo from the power of the mafia.