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Scritto da Francesca De Sanctis Domenica 09 Maggio 2010 13:17   
Lunedì 10 Maggio 2010 20:55


An interview with Letizia Battaglia

I'm obsessed with my past, it's too painful. Am I afraid? I was, very afraid. And today here in Palermo I'm not able to expose my work or write books”.

Letizia Battaglia is a 75 year old photographer who began her career in 1972. In a recurrent dream Letizia sees herself burning all her negatives. The work of a lifetime. “ I'm exhausted by all these photos of the past. I need to destroy them. I can't take it anymore, the pain, the blood, the mafia. It's taken a toll on me”. For this reason Letizia has decided to do without an entire archive she devoted her life to.

“ I'm looking for a museum or a foundation who is willing to foster twenty years of my life: I documented years of the civil war taking place in Palermo. Nothing of all this should go lost”.

Letizia Battaglia's work is renowned world wide and she has received many awards and acknowledgements. The italian newspaper Unita' interviewed her recently. Here is what she said.

Letizia, people decide to become photographers for many reasons. What made you do it?

“ We're talking about a half a century ago, more or less. I lived in Milan where I worked as a freelance reporter because I needed to work. My husband and I had just separated. I had to sell my pieces but without pictures they didn't do very well. Back then I knew nothing about photography.

And then what happened?

“ Then the newspaper l'Ora had me come back to Palermo. By that time I had become a photographer. It was then that I began to love photography and photographers. I really believe in what I do”.

Has your way of using the camera and of seeing the world changed throughout time?

“ I've always taken pictures in a certain way, with passion, trying to feel the subject I was photographing. I've taken pictures in different ways because I worked for l'Ora for nineteen years and I had to photograph what they told me to photograph, 24 hours a day: dead bodies, trials, and so on... In the last few years I started taking pics for myself. I choose a few of my old shots (a woman's suffering or someone's death) and I use them as a background. I then overlap the print with another image (a naked woman or a child). It turns out to be something close to a hybrid of a painful past which is still present and a representation of life. I'm obsessed by my past but I have trouble putting it aside. This is why I create these new pictures”.

In this day and age we're bombarded by images: tv, internet... how does good photography survive?

“Good photography always has meaning. I'm on facebook and it makes me very sad to see the terrible and superficial use that is made of photography on internet. This is why I'm erasing myself from the social network... However a good shot always delivers a vision of the world and there are many wonderful photographers. Unfortunately we also have to deal with this other type of photography. The kind which is used to portray trivialities instead of the sublime”.

Were you afraid when you began taking shots of mafiosi?

“ Yes, I was afraid”.

Where did you find the courage to keep on going?

“ The courage to take pictures is the courage to live. There are some things that just have to be done. If I continue to expose my work it's because I believe that it's important not to forget”.

Did you ever have any problems?

“ Oh yes, I had problems... I even spoke to judge Falcone before they killed him. One of my problems is the fact that I live in Sicily. Here I can't write books, or have exhibitions or participate in conferences because I'm considered embarrassing, someone who would be much better off if she kept quiet. I'm always paying a toll for my dreams and for the life I lead because I never feel happy in society. A society which shoes very little love for others”.

A few weeks ago our premier stated that tv shows like “La piovra” or novels like “Gomorra” by Saviano give a negative image of Italy because they talk about mafia. What's your opinion on the matter?

“ I don't believe our premier is well informed... obviously, it's better not to make films which glorify organized crime. But Saviano, who I love and would like to work with is a wonderful young man. We should be grateful to him for what he is doing. Unfortunately, our premier often says silly things”.

What was the hardest picture you ever had to take?

“ the hardest ones were the ones I didn't take. I didn't have the strength to shoot when Falcone and Borsellino were killed. I had my camera with me but I didn't snap a shot. I was in the Emergency room when Falcone was murdered. I saw pieces of bodies and parts of blown up cars when Borsellino died. Today I regret not have taken any pictures. It's better to make people remember these things. I just didn't have the strength back then.  Having witnessed so many deaths and being aware that nearly all of this happened in vain is very painful. It makes you want to stop taking pictures all toghether”.

But it's right to carry on...

“It's absolutely right. However, now it's someone else's turn”.

Francesca De Sanctis

article from " Unita' " newspaper

italian version



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