Celebrated Italian photojournalist reveals how the death of a 10-year-old boy influenced her work
Letizia Battaglia, Italys most famous female photojournalist, has developed all of her rolls of film but one. Shot in 1987, the photos show the corpse of a 10-year-old boy, Claudio, who had been killed by the mafia in Palermo.
It was a time of war. The Sicilian mafia, known as Cosa Nostra, was leaving bullet-ridden bodies in the streets and assassinating prosecutors with car bombs. Battaglia photographed hundreds of corpses, building a bloody archive in black and white that showed Sicilys worst face to the world.
Thirty years have passed since Battaglia photographed the boy, killed because he had witnessed a murder, and the world around her has changed. Tourism has regenerated Palermo and brought it back from the depths. Most of the Cosa Nostra bosses are in prison and its killers have stopped shooting up the city. Battaglia has changed too. Now, at 82, she is trying to leave behind the horror of those years and searching for innocence and beauty.
Her new subject is a 10-year-old girl, the same age as murderedClaudio, in a work called The Beauty of Greta. This project, in a way, begins from that film roll that was never developed, of the murdered child, that I never found the courage to print, she said.
The age of 10 is the age of innocence. For me, innocence is synonymous with beauty. Being 10 years old is a magical moment in life. At that age, we are dreaming, we dream of a wonderful future, a future that the mafia, in Sicily, has removed from thousands of people.
Battaglia said it was the impact of Claudios murder that decades later had led her to ditch her celebrated noir style. The constant sight, every day, of all those dead makes you crazy. I have photographed hundreds of them in my life.