Mario Puzo wrote a book, and Coppola made a film about the Mafia, but only Letizia Battaglia told the real story; the plain, harsh story. She told Vice that her mission was “to document everything that acted as testimony against the Mafia.” Over the years, Battaglia took some 600,000 images whilst documenting the ferocious internal war of the Mafia, and its assault on civil society. Battaglia sometimes found herself at the scene of four or five different murders in a single day. In a recent interview with CNN, Battaglia claimed that her “archives are full of blood” interspersed with images that capture the “immense beauty” of Sicily.
A large selection of her iconic black and white images are presented in the catalogue, guiding the reader along a journey into one of post-war Italy’s darkest periods. Drawing from Battaglia’s personal archive the book also includes more recent projects. It offers a unique approach to her genre-defining photography (often linked to that of American ‘crime’ photographer Weegee) and a chance to reflect on the role of photography as an individual and collective means for taking action, bearing witness, providing evidence and documenting history. The Daily Beast wrote that her pictures capture “Mafia judges and police officers, many dead in their cars with blood so fresh it glimmers like water.” Yet some present daily Sicilian life with “young girls playing on the cobbled streets and wealthy women in fur collars sipping champagne.”