LETIZIA BATTAGLIA.Just for passion

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LETIZIA BATTAGLIA.Just for passion
LETIZIA BATTAGLIA.Just for passion
MAXXI is dedicating an anthological exhibition to the great Sicilian artist
with over 250 photographs testifying to 40 years of Italian life and society
24 November 2016 – 17 April 2017
#LetiziaBattaglia | #PerPuraPassione
www.fondazionemaxxi.it
Born in Palermo in 1935 and known throughout the world for her photos of the mafia, Letizia Battaglia has
provided and continues to provide one of the most extraordinary and acute visual testimonies to Italian life
and society, in particular that of Sicily.Recognised as one of the most important figures in contemporary
photography for the civic and ethical value of her work, Letizia Battaglia is not only the “photographer of the
mafia” but also, through her artistic work and as a photo reporter for the daily newspaper L’Ora, the first
woman and in 1985 in New York she became the first European photographer to receive the prestigious
internationalW. Eugene Smith Award, the international prize commemorating the Lifephotographer.
Shortly after the celebrations for her 80th birthday, MAXXI is organizing LETIZIA BATTAGLIA.Just for
passion, a major exhibition curated by Paolo Falcone, Margherita Guccione and Bartolomeo
Pietromarchi, that from 24 November 2016 through to 17 April 2017 brings to MAXXI over 250
photographs, contact sheets and previously unseen vintage prints from the archive of this great artist,
along with magazines, publications, films and interviews.
Visual testimony to the bloodiest mafia atrocities and and social and political reality of Italy, a number of her
shots are firmly embedded in the collective consiousness: Giovanni Falcone at the funeral of the General
Dalla Chiesa; Piersanti Mattarella asassinated in the arms of his brother Sergio; the widow of Vito
Schifano; the boss Leoluca Bagarella following his arrest; Giulio Andreotti with Nino Salvo.
“I am particularly happy with this exhibition”, says Giovanna Melandri, president of Fondazione MAXXI, “with
which we celebrate not only the extraordinary work of the photographer Letizia Battaglia, but also her social
commitment, her militant passion that has seen her incessantly on the front line for diverse causes: legality,
women’s issues, enviornmental problems, prisoners’ rights. A commitment that has brought her numerous
prizes and awards around the world.”
THE EXHIBITION
Organized in two macro areas, the exhibitions intends to provide a 360° overview of multi-faceted,
courageous and indefatigable personalità of Letizia Battglia and represent the complexity of her interests in
photography, publishing. experimental theatre and politics.
These aspects are explored in the documentary section that opens the exhibition and recounts her intensive
and varied work of a social nature. There are examples of her work as a photo-reporter in Palermo and
Milan,such as her first photo spread depicting the prostitute Enza Montoro, dated 1969 and published in the
daily newspaper L’Ora, for which she worked for over twenty years, photographs of occupations, of protests
in the piazzas, of political rallies in the Seventies in Milan, those of the new creative scene in Milan that led
her to meet and portray Pier Paolo Pasolini and Franca Rameand which are leaving her archives for the
first time for this occasion.
Another previously unseen series exhibited at MAXXI for the first time is the one created in 1983 in the
psychiatric hospital in Via Pindemonte in Palermo: Battaglia collaborated extensively with the “Real Casa
dei Matti”, organizing theatre workshops and activities that would converge into the films Festa d’agosto and
Vatinni, presented here for the first time after thirty years.This nucleus of works will be acquired by MAXXI for
its permanent collection.
Then there is the story of the photographer’s extensive publishing career with magazines such
asGRANDEVU’, Edizioni della battaglia,Mezzocielo and her work as a director.
A table at the centre of the room displays further previously unseen material from Letizia Battagli’s archive:
contact sheets and files, notes, historic pages from L’Ora.
Hung in Gallery 1, the exhibition also features the film, produced by the Municipality of Palermo and
previewed at MAXXI, La mia Battaglia. Franco Maresco incontra Letizia Battaglia, an intense story of
Palermo, the city that the artist has made known to the world.
In the exhibition there is also the major installation ANTHOLOGIA, composed of 120 suspended large
format images (66x100)in black and white portraying the places and victims of Mafia assassinations, but
also the lives and faces of Palermo society. Images of pain, poverty, death, wealth, hope and rebellion sketch
out a multi-voiced narrative illustrating a historic period spanning more than forty years.
In the photos on Mafia investigations, Battaglia portrayed judges, police officers and men from institutions at
the front line in the battle against Cosa Nostra: from Giorgio Boris Giuliano to Ninni Cassarà, the judge
Cesare Terranova, the President of the Region of Sicily Piersanti Mattarella, General Carlo Alberto Dalla
Chiesa and Giovanni Falcone.
Numerous photos from the Politici e mafia series are on display, including those of Salvo Lima and Vito
Ciancimino, leading figures in the events involving the entwinement of politics and the Mafia.The photograph
of Giulio Andreotti with the Mafioso Nino Salvo is emblematic: found by the Anti-Mafia Pool in Battaglia’s
archives, it became central to one of the main charges in the trial against the Christian Democrat
leader.Among the main Mafia members portrayed by Battaglia, we find little-known figures as well as men
such as Leoluca Bagarella, shown while being arrested. This picture became an icon in the struggle against
Mafia crimes.
The Eighties were especially prolific for Battaglia. In addition to news photos, she portrayed society in
general, moments of everyday life, women and children in the city’s lower-class districts.Alongside
them, she also captured the bourgeoisie and nobility of Palermo, which played a leading role in parties and
receptions, as well as processions, funerals and religious celebrations.Her experimentation continued in
the Nineties, with re-elaborations, in which the female figure is overlaid on violent historic pictures.
Many of the photographs in the exhibition are among the 240 published in the extensive book ANTHOLOGY
published by Drago (2016). On the occasion of the exhibition at MAXXI, the book is accompanied by a
second volume relating to the exposition LETIZIA BATTAGLIA. Just for passion.
The press kit and images of the exhibition can be downloaded from the Reserved Area of the Fondazione
MAXXI’s website at http://www.fondazionemaxxi.it/area-riservata/ by typing in the password
areariservatamaxxi
MAXXI – National Museum of XXI Century Arts
www.fondazionemaxxi.it - info:06.320.19.54; [email protected]
opening hours:11:00 AM – 7:00 PM (Tues, Weds, Thurs, Fri, Sun) | 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM (Sat) | closed
Mondays
Admittance free for students of art architecture from Tuesday to Friday
MAXXI PRESS OFFICE +39 06 324861 [email protected]
LETIZIA BATTAGLIA. Per pura passione
Giovanna Melandri President Fondazione MAXXI
Letizia Battaglia’s photos have a quality about them that only artists know how to convey. Letizia herself once
said to me that everybody takes photos these days, but that changes nothing: everyone knows how to hold a
pen, yet very few can write a great novel. Letizia’s pictures draw us into the most tragic events, feelings and
contexts, telling us a story that regards us directly even if it is far removed, stirring our conscience even if we
think we are immune to certain abysses. In short, her photos possess the power of art. Letizia – I will use her
first name because we met many years ago, together with Alex Langer – is a beloved travel companion of my
generation, thanks to her commitment to lawfulness, the environment and feminism. Perhaps without even
knowing it, many people have walked a section of their road with her in everyday life, in movements and in
institutions.
The great thing is that Letizia has been a teacher without ever having posed as one, instead seeking to
accompany our dreams, anger, disappointments and plans. Harrowing and full of light, her images have
punched us in the stomach many times, while also stimulating our minds. First and foremost, they have never
taken away the freedom of our eyes, emotions and hopes.
Her way of invoking justice, fighting the Mafia, consoling the victims and the oppressed, stripping power bare
or illustrating the gracefulness of young girls is the result of her liberation as a woman, a photographer and an
intellectual, which she has conquered step by step through her passion and determination. It is the result of
an unmistakable human dimension of pure passion.
A common thread binds several pages of her personality, with all the contradictions and rifts that she has
always defended, both in public and in private: the photography that has brought her to the world’s attention,
the policy of small but significant achievements and pointless liturgies, voluntary work and the theatre, and,
last but not least, her wonderful publications, which we wanted to document extensively in the exhibition.
Organizing this wonderful and highly original anthological exhibition is a unique opportunity for MAXXI. It is
not a rhetorical tribute, which she would have swiftly returned to sender. It is not a cold review, a catalogue of
horrors and illusions to be flicked through as if they were remote history.
Letizia Battaglia’s shots never fail to disturb us, move us and arouse our indignation, although today it is
possible that even a great photographer like her would struggle to depict an increasingly concealed and
almost domesticated Mafia. In this exhibition curated by Margherita Guccione, Bartolomeo Pietromarchi and
Paolo Falcone, you will be dismayed to see the victims and tormentors, the blood and pain, the heroes and
sphinxes that at a certain moment she decided to stop portraying, devastated by the pain of having lost
friends and key figures such as Chinnici, Falcone and Borsellino. It is another raw and biting tableau of Italy.
Following on from the exhibitions devoted to Olivo Barbieri, Gabriele Basilico, Luigi Ghirri and the
photographers of ‘Extraordinary Visions. L’italia ci guarda’, our exhibition devoted to Italy, the Museo
nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo is continuing to develop its accounts of other great masters of
photography. Letizia obviously had to be included.
LETIZIA BATTAGLIA. Per pura passione
Margherita Guccione e Bartolomeo Pietromarchi curators
“I am a person, not a photographer,” states Letizia Battaglia. As is often the case, artists seem to be able to
sum up the meaning and substance of an entire vein of research with incomparable efficacy.
This is certainly true of Battaglia, who tells her life story in these few words: the story of a woman who has
always established a close link with what was happening around her, using photography (but also other
means) to tell the tale.
A visual witness of some of the bloodiest Mafia events, and of Italy’s social and political situation, Battaglia is
considered one of the most important figures in contemporary photography, not just because of the prime
position occupied by her shots in the collective imagination, but also because of the civic and ethical role she
attributes to photography. The exhibition, curated with Paolo Falcone, that MAXXI is devoting to this
photographer from Palermo aims to illustrate all of her many interests, including photography, publishing,
experimental theatre and politics, through a corpus of more than 300 images, including a considerable
number of unpublished works. Indeed, the exhibition provided an opportunity to explore the Battaglia Archive
in depth, salvaging dozens of unpublished shots, vintage photographs, specimens, documents and study
materials, and gathering up the results of her intense publishing work with more than 100 publications to her
name. The exhibition opens with a map of Palermo. Battaglia has a love-hate relationship with the city, and
has managed to portray its many places and faces: the docile faces of young girls in the historic
neighbourhoods, the cruel faces of Mafiosi on the doorstep of the courts, the proud faces of Palermo’s nobility
in its beautiful aristocratic villas and the faces of the common people in the local markets.
The first section of the exhibition focuses on her work as a photojournalist: a journey that began with her first
photograph of the prostitute Enza Montoro, followed by her fundamental Milanese experience of the early
Seventies, when she documented rightand left-wing political processes and events, the activity of the Teatro
Sperimentale and the Palazzina Liberty. She then returned to Sicily where, heading the photography
department at L’Ora, she took photos that documented the long Mafia War: from Piersanti Mattarella to
Giovanni Falcone, Leoluca Bagarella and Giulio Andreotti, many protagonists of recent history have been
portrayed by her lens in the crucial moments of the country’s political life.
It continues with her extensive activism in the field of publishing, with a section that features most of the
publications she has worked on: from GrandeVù to Mezzocielo, and including the first issue of Fotografia and
the complete series of the collection significantly entitled Edizioni della battaglia (which literally translates as
“battle publications” in English).
The third section presents the “Other passions” that inspired her civic work: political activity as a councillor
under Leoluca Orlando during the “Palermo Spring”; links with the world of culture represented by portraits of
intellectuals; her experience with Michele Perriera’s Teates drama school. Also exhibited here for the first
time are the photos taken in the Seventies at the psychiatric hospital on via Pindemonte in Palermo, where
Battaglia ran a theatre workshop. Her long-term involvement with the hospital is also illustrated by films she
directed with a group of patients.
The arrangement of the first part of the exhibition on the various themes is then countered by the large
installation in the second part of the gallery, “Anthologia”, which has already been presented at the ZAC in
Palermo, curated by Paolo Falcone. Over 120 photographs illustrate an intense visual journey, offering
visitors the possibility to immerse themselves in a forest of images that cover 40 years of work and of Italy’s
political and social life.
Following on from “Extraordinary Visions. L’Italia ci guarda”, the exhibition with which MAXXI celebrated 70
years of the Italian Republic, the museum is once again reflecting on our country’s recent history through the
versatile tool of photography, with a solo exhibition that forms part of a broader project to promote
contemporary photographers. This project was launched by MAXXI Architettura in 2013 with the monographic
exhibition devoted to Luigi Ghirri, then continued with Gabriele Basilico and Olivo Barbieri.
With “Letizia Battaglia. Just for passion”, curated in partnership by MAXXI Arte and MAXXI Architettura, the
museum aims to add another notch to its examination of the most important figures of our time who have
undertaken to interpret the Italian situation with consistency, courage and pure passion.
LETIZIA BATTAGLIA. Per pura passione
Paolo Falcone curator
I just think it’s important to be direct and honest
with people about why you’re photographing them and
what you are doing.
After all, you are taking some of their soul.
Mary Ellen Mark
“Good morning Letiziuccia, good morning Paoluccio.” Almost every day for the past three years, between
6:30 and 7:30, my day begins with an affectionate hello to Letizia over the phone. Whether she is working or
not on a project, this greeting is the prelude to great morning conversations, confrontations and research
during which new discoveries are made, that enrich what is Letizia Battaglia. Although she is known
internationally, most of her work has yet to be discovered.
There are many elements to be observed and studied when looking at her extensive photographic, editorial,
literary and theatrical production, in addition to her work as a politician and activist. All of this has helped to
identify her as one of the main witnesses and protagonists of the last 40 years of Italy’s cultural life. In “Letizia
Battaglia. Just for Passion”, the exhibition that continues on the path of Anthologia1, new parts of her complex
creative production are told.
The advent of the digital and of the so-called 2.0 photography has redefined the compositional and
expressive codes of the photographic universe freeing the analogical photography from the rules and
parameters which conditioned it for years. In addition, the introduction of plastic photography has also allowed
to redefine the codes of composition, allowing the discovery of new relationships between images and
highlighting compositional elements, previously ignored, from the archives of photographers. In this context,
we redefined the kronos, and initiated a new research into Letizia Battaglia’s enormous archive: unprinted
and forgotten photographs have come to life defining unprecedented points of view.
Letizia is one of the most persistent interpreters of Ellen Mark’s school of thought, i.e. the importance of the
relationship between the photographer and the subject. Always get close when photographing, enough to
give a punch or a caress.
As Letizia points put, the punctum in photography is “the essence of the image.”2 It can be a meaningful look,
a furrowed expression, a smile, the detail of a chipped wall, a writing, anything that can emotionally guide us
inside the perception of the composition. Together with Letizia we plunge into her archive, looking for the
punctum. With her constantly lighted cigarette, we go deep into decades of extraordinary shots, finding bits of
a past that still needs to be understood. We sometimes discuss about which images should be selected and
some turn out to be surprises for both of us. Letizia asks with her usual irony: “Who will be interested in these
photos?” We always end up agreeing and choose the same photos. We look at the contact sheets and the
negatives, tidily spread out in the study and start analysing layers of life, photographed or lived, together with
all the emotions that come with them, as if we were visual archaeologists.
Our research started many years ago in Rome, during Cesare Manzo’s exhibition, when we presented the
1975 shot Homicide with a Palermo license plate, a photo that has become one of Letizia’s iconic photos.
Starting with this emblematic image, we redefined names, contexts, dates, we looked over and analysed
previous selections, creating new scenarios which represent the constantly changing selective and semantic
process.3
We are working in a similar way to select the images for the MAXXI exhibition. With the small lenses we look,
discover, highlight and send for printing. In the end, new photos always emerge, full of that je ne sais quoi
that make Letizia’s shots unique. The image that starts the MAXXI exhibition is dated 1969 and portrays the
prostitute Enza Montoro. She was involved in a homicide in which her lover and pimp killed her main
competitor, the last arrival in the section of Palermo, considered her domain. This was Battaglia’s first
published shot, even before becoming a photographer. At the time, Letizia had only been working for L’Ora
for a few months, without a contract, and behind a desk. The opportunity arrived in the summer when all the
editors were on holiday. Letizia offered to work and was “hired.”4 The article about Enza Montoro was her first
story and she attached a photo to it. Photography still hasn’t taken over her life, but somehow Letizia already
had a camera in her hand. Just like Enza, she was to radically change her life.
At the time she is still married to Franco5, the father of her three daughters, and she continues her sessions
with the Freudian psychoanalyst Francesco Corrao. A few months later she will leave her husband and
Palermo. Her real start in photography is in Milan. She manages to get a contract with L’Ora, as a
correspondent. In the meantime she starts a collaboration with the tabloid Le Ore, a glossy newspaper which
will later become a pornographic icon6. We find shots done for Le Ore dated back to 1971: a group of young
people dance naked. Images that take us back to the 1970s, years full of hope, discoveries, research,
transgressions and sexual freedom. The bodies are enveloped in a game of sensual gazes, against the
backdrop of old ruins. Whilst in Milan, Letizia has a committed curiosity: she attends the Palazzina Liberty and
photographs Franca Rame, Pier Paolo Pasolini at the Circolo Turati, she documents assemblies, meetings
and important events of the moment. In 1974 she is appointed to follow the trial against L’Ora, accused of
publishing, on its front page, a composition of Bruno Caruso’s images portraying old Mafia bosses (including
Luciano Liggio), together with powerful politicians of Palermo, considered close to the Mafia.
These include Giovanni Gioia, Vito Ciancimino, Salvo Lima of the Democratic Christian party and prosecutor
Scaglione, who will later be killed by the Mafia. Vito Ciancimino and Giovanni Gioia testify against the
newspaper, together with the sons of Scaglione. Captain Russo and General Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa, later
killed with his wife by Cosa Nostra in Palermo, testify in favour. L’Ora is convicted and Bruno Caruso is
obliged to pay a fine. Today it would be considered an oxymoron. Letizia documents the important parts of
the trial: it is the first report about the Sicilian Mafia.
In “Letizia Battaglia. Just for Passion”, a series of photos retracing the terrible years of the second Mafia War,
is presented. Photos of homicides forgotten over the years, such as the Homicide on a bicycle (1984), the
raid of the “room of death” (1983), Giorgio Boris Giuliano’s desk on the day of his homicide (1979), the
homicide in Piazza del Carmine (1978), a small town communist club, the emblematic photo of Salvo Lima at
a Christian Democratic party convention against the Mafia (1982). Letizia foresees the truth when she takes a
photo of the politician, who has ties to Andreotti, with the symbol of the party (a shield with a cross) and the
writing “la Mafia” on the background. Salvo Lima is killed by the Corleonesi in 1992 and his ties to Cosa
Nostra are revealed during the trials against the Mafia.
A series of photographs, presumably printed during the 1980s, appear from a small but very full storage. They
turn out to be a revelation: never before seen photos, particularly moving and heart breaking, in some cases
ironic, of which we do not have much information. The interchange of a provincial road where a rundown
newsstand sits in between road signs indicating Palermo and Racalmuto, dripping with the dense and
mysterious atmosphere of the Sicilian countryside. A table and a chair in a countryside house, a silent image
that reflects De Chirico’s compositions. The same spatiality can be found in the photo portraying the column
of the Duomo of Monreale, which is dominated by shadows, giving it its particular feeling and photographical
signature. A child striking a pose on a sofa, surrounded by votive candles. A group of comrades in a Baroque
church, with their arms raised and their hands closed in a fist, creating a striking contract between sacred,
challenge and secular materialism. The portraits of two old people in an old house in the countryside. The
homicide of a man, whose dangling head appears surrounded by people in deep conversation, uninterested
in the body 7. These treasures have appeared from an archive which has yet to be completely explored.
Whilst looking at these photographs, Letizia is told that her brother Ernesto has passed away. It is an intense
and poignant moment for all of us. Ernesto isn’t just her brother. He is the companion of a lifetime, and
together with many other photographers, a part of that dramatic period of time, during which the Laboratorio
d’IF witnessed the bloody brutality of the second Mafia War. Ernesto shot extraordinary photos, including the
portrait of Luciano Liggio in handcuffs with a cigar in his mouth. A part of Letizia dies with Ernesto and we
gather even more closely around her.
One of the photographers Letizia most appreciates is the American Diane Arbus whom she meets in the
Eighties. She particularly likes the image of a boy affected by Down Syndrome (Untitled, 1990) who harshly
looks at the camera. As Fred Ritchin says: Photography intensifies visual linguistic metaphors, transforming
human acts in images8. With her minimalist and direct language, Diane Arbus foregoes the expressive
parameters of photography in order to highlight deeply intense expressions. Her photographs create
unmediated and uncompromised relationships, similar to Letizia’s images portraying the patients of the
psychiatric hospital: lonely men and women, often abandoned by their families. This is a path made of
photographs, videos and theatrical pieces that she shares with her partner Franco Zecchin (involving her
daughters Patrizia and Shobha). Complex and brave life choices that bring her to adopt Graziella, one of the
patients of the asylum in via Pindemonte. These forgotten shots reappear today, creating a selection of
images full of pathos and pietas. A complete series, an emotional scenery, that is structurally recreated for
the first time on the occasion of this exhibition9. We decided to also involve also the Director Franco Maresco,
who created a work about insanity presented at MAXXI for the first time.
In addition to her political and social commitment, Letizia has always had a deep interest for the intellectual
world, with a predilection for literature and theatre. She witnesses the events of the Gruppo 63 in Palermo
and is great friends with Michele Perriera and Gaetano Testa. It is at the theatre that she meets Franco
Zecchin, and where she experiments with Grotowsky’s language. Letizia decides to try directing and does so
with Uccidiamo il chiaro di Luna. Una serata futurista,10 played at the Teatro Biondo in Palermo on 8 April
1981. In 1982 she directs Il Pianto della Madonna by Jacopone da Todi, where a female Christ dominates the
scene. In the same year she directs her first video, Festa d’Agosto, filmed entirely in Palermo’s psychiatric
hospital, and featuring her daughter Patrizia as the main character and the patients of the hospital.
The last section of the exhibition is dedicated to portraits: Renato Guttuso with his palette, Bob Wilson at the
Teatro Garibaldi, Josef Koudelka, Frank Zappa, Dacia Maraini, Gae Aulenti, Nobel Prize winner Wisława
Szymborska and porn star Cicciolina. Letizia’s last and great objective is the International Photography
Centre: a dynamic centre at the Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa, a promise made by the mayor Leoluca Orlando
and a new hope for the city of Palermo. An objective that seems to finally be coming to life after three
generations of important photographers who have marked some of the most important stages of modern and
contemporary photography. Together with Letizia, we enthusiastically await her project in order to add new
notes to the travel diary of this extraordinary activist and visionary.
1 Letizia Battaglia, Anthologia, curated by Paolo Falcone Rome, DRAGO, 2016. My essay published within the
catalogue retraces the main steps of Letizia Battaglia’s life and her photographic work. An emotional journey
through her photos that intertwines with Sicily’s history from the 1970s to today.
2 Interview with the writer, 2016
3 Before that, Melissa Harris published Letizia Battaglia: Passion Justice Freedom, Photographs of Sicily,
New York: Aperture, 1999. This publication is the first collection of Letizia Battaglia’s photographic work.
In 2000 we organised the exhibition Passione Giustizia e Libertà which revolved around the the 20th century
in the Cantieri Culturali at the Zisa for the Festival di Palermo. It was directed by Roberto Ando and was the
first institutional exhibition to be organised in Palermo throughout Letizia’s career.
4 For 19 years she collaborated with L’Ora, Letizia has never had a regular contract.
5 Franco Stagnitta. Letizia is married to him for over fifteen years and together they have three daughters:
Cinzia, Shobha (also a well-known photographer) and Patrizia.
6 Le Ore dedicates itself to cinema and culture until 1967. In 1971 it becomes an erotic magasine and transitions
to pornography in 1977.
7 Triple homicide in Vucciria, 1978
8 Fred Ritchin, After photography, Turin, 2009, Piccola biblioteca Einaudi. 2012, p. 80
9 Just a few photographs were selected for an exhibition in Follonica.
10 For the occasion Letizia Battaglia is the director, inspires costumes and scenography, and collaborates with
Serena Barone, Giovanna Cossu, Giuliana Crocivera, Sabina Di Pasquale, Gloria Liverati, Mariella Lo Sardo and
Nicola Petrucci. An extraordinary Enrico Stassi recites F.T.Marinetti’s passionate monologue Uccidiamo il
chiaro di luna. The wording is written by Marinetti, Balla, Boccioni, Cangiullo, Pratella, Settimelli, Corradini,
Farfa, Valentine de Sain Point.
LETIZIA BATTAGLIA. Just for passion
INTRODUCTION
A visual witness of Italy’s social and political situation, and particularly news about the Mafia, Letizia Battaglia
is recognized as one of the most important figures in contemporary photography, not only for her shots, which
are deeply engraved in the collective unconscious, but also for the civic and ethical value of her work.
The exhibition that MAXXI is dedicating to her examines her multifaceted personality, with interests ranging
from photography to publishing, experimental theatre and politics, through a corpus of over 250 images, and
various original materials and documents.
The exhibition is divided into two parts. The first probes her activity as a photo journalist in Milan and
Palermo, her long-term commitment to the publishing industry her interest in experimental theatre, directing,
and her experience with the patients at the psychiatric hospital in Via Pindemonte. The materials – vintage
photographs, proofs with autograph notes, archival entries, refound prints and publications – are from her
archive and are being exhibited here for the first time.
In the second part, the scene opens onto the large Anthologia installation, with the corpus of Battaglia’s work:
a labyrinth of over 120 photographs punctuates an intense visual path and renders the variety of subjects she
portrayed over the course of forty years. The leading players of recent history are juxtaposed with ordinary
people, little girls and women; places in the news are set against views of the lower-class neighbourhoods of
Palermo and those of its nobility. This is a journey through the work of one of the most significant figures of
our time, who has interpreted what Italy is with constancy, courage and pure passion.
LETIZIA BATTAGLIA. Just for passion
THE EXHIBITION
SECTION I
The exhibition opens with material – most of which previously unpublished – regarding Letizia Battaglia’s
work as a photojournalist.
Her first photo spread, on the prostitute Enza Montoro, is dated 1969 and was published in the daily L’Ora, for
which she worked for over twenty years.
Nevertheless, her true debut in news photography dates to her period in Milan, between 1971 and 1974,
when she came into contact with the city’s lively intellectual milieu. Here she met Pier Paolo Pasolini,
documented the experience of the experimental theatre of Franca Rame and Dario Fo’s Palazzina Liberty,
and witnessed several political trials, collaborating with various periodicals.
When she returned to Sicily, she and Franco Zecchin founded the photographic department of L’Ora.
Throughout the Seventies and Eighties she documented the city affected by the second war against the
Mafia, but also animated by a desire for redemption and rebirth. The series dedicated to Palermo, with
previously unpublished prints and vintage photographs, testifies to her presence at the front line to portray the
thousands of faces of Palermo: from the docile ones of little girls in the city’s historic districts to the
defenceless ones of the ammazzatine, the haughty portraits of Palermo’s nobility and those of ordinary
people captured in intimate everyday moments.
Battaglia’s work as a photojournalist is also documented by the work table in the middle of the room, with
other materials – previously unpublished and never displayed before – from her studio.
Also on display is the report for RAI by Giuseppe Marrazzo for the exhibition entitled La città e il potere
staged by Letizia Battaglia and Franco Zecchin in the main square of Corleone in 1979.
Milan – Genoa: the beginning
In 1971 Letizia Battaglia left Palermo to move to Milan. It was a very delicate moment for the country: political
dialectics degenerated into a season of both right- and left-wing terrorism, but it was also marked by
extraordinary cultural vivacity. The ambivalence of this phase, between anxiety and ferment, is captured
effectively by her photographs.
In 1972 Battaglia met Pier Paolo Pasolini at the Circolo Turati and devoted a series of portraits to him. She
was also a habitué of the Palazzina Liberty, occupied by Franca Rame and Dario Fo’s “Collettivo teatrale la
Comune”. As a correspondent for L’Ora Battaglia documented various political trials that resonated widely,
such as the one of three neo-Fascists charged with the failed bombing of the Turin-Rome train. One of the
most significant was the Genoa trial in which L’Ora was the defendant because it had published a satirical
illustration portraying members of the Mafia and leading local politicians together. Key figures from the era
testified at the trial: Salvo Lima and Vito Ciancimino, among the accusers, and General Carlo Alberto Dalla
Chiesa defending the daily paper.
While she was working for L’Ora, Battaglia also collaborated with other periodicals, such as the magazine Le
Ore, for which she took a series of erotic shots presented here for the first time.
Palermo from the Seventies to the Nineties
After her Milanese experience, Letizia Battaglia returned to Palermo to oversee the photographic department
of the daily L’Ora. To respond to the need to “cover” everything happening in the city around the clock, she
and Franco Zecchin founded the Laboratorio d’Informazione Fotografica.
For Palermo these were the dramatic years of the second Mafia war, pitting the “Corleonesi” clan against the
“city” Mafia, and of the harshest attacks by Cosa Nostra against institutions. All of this would spark the
indignation of civil society, but it also led to the city’s cultural and political renaissance in the second half of
the Eighties with the “Palermo Spring”.
Battaglia was one of the leading representatives of this renewal phase, thanks also to her political
commitment, as a municipal representative of the Green Party starting in 1986 and then as Councillor for
Roads and Parks in the council led by Leoluca Orlando.
Displayed on the table are materials from the studio documenting Battaglia’s works as a photo journalist:
autograph notes for publication in newspapers, proofs and archival entries, as well as several historical pages
from the daily L’Ora.
The wall features photographs documenting Battaglia’s rapport with the prestigious Magnum Photos.
Although the agency never represented the photographer, it distributed her most famous photographs,
bearing witness to the international interest in her work starting from the second half of the Eighties,
coinciding with her being awarded the Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in New York in 1985.
SECTION II
The publications on display illustrate Letizia Battaglia's extensive activity in the field of publishing. More than
thirty years of experience alongside her work as a photographer, evolving out of her ongoing interest in
writing and literature.
The first and only issue of Fotografia, a magazine devoted expressly to female photographers, was published
in 1986 and paid tribute to the US photographer Donna Ferrato. This was also the year of foundation of La
Luna, the first publishing house devoted to women’s writing. December of the same year saw the publication
of the first issue of the monthly GRANDEVÙ. Grandezze e bassezze della città di Palermo, which soon
became a reference point for the debate on the city's political, environmental and social situation during the
crucial years of the “Palermo Spring”. Mezzocielo, launched in 1991 and developed in partnership with
Simona Mafai and Rosanna Pirajno, with the contribution of numerous figures from the world of culture, is a
magazine “for women, by women” that is still in publication today. In 1992, in response to the murders of
Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the Edizioni della battaglia project got underway, with more than one
hundred essays on literary criticism, translations of Italian and international authors, political pamphlets and
social reports.
Despite their different formats and objectives, these independent publications all bear witness to Letizia
Battaglia’s militant commitment, apparent not only in the content, which often flows smoothly from one
magazine to the next, but also in the graphics. In most cases she handled all the editing herself, as can be
seen in the central role assigned to the images, the blunt titles, and the close relationship between the words
and images.
SECTION III
This section examines less-known aspects of Letizia Battaglia’s multifaceted personality: directing plays and
films, theatre, and civil and social commitment went hand in hand with photography, politics and publishing.
The formative experience with Michele Perriera’s Teatès drama school, which represents the experimental
avant-garde of the Eighties and Nineties in Palermo, is documented by images illustrating the mise-en-scène
of two shows directed by Battaglia, Il pianto della Madonna di Jacopone da Todi and Uccidiamo il chiaro di
luna. Una serata futurista.
The series of photographs displayed here bear witness to Battaglia’s primary focus on people and their
stories. Regardless of whether they are figures from the world of culture – in the series of portraits – or
ordinary people, Battaglia’s attitude has always been that of engaging in an open, loyal and direct dialogue
with the subject she is portraying. This form of proximity, which accompanies all of her experience as a news
photographer, is evident in the series portraying the patients at the psychiatric hospital in Via Pindemonte, in
Palermo. Battaglia collaborated extensively with the “Real Casa dei Matti” in the late Seventies and Eighties,
organizing theatre workshops and activities that would converge into the films Festa d’agosto and Vatinni,
presented here for the first time after thirty years.
DIRECTING
Letizia Battaglia developed a passion for theatre and literature as early as the Seventies, when she forged a
close friendship with Gaetano Testa and Michele Perriera, the two leading representatives of the so-called
“Palermo school”. She thus came into contact with Gruppo ’63, an avant-garde literary movement composed
of poets, novelists and critics who first met in Palermo and embarked on the earliest literary and theatrical
experiments.
Jerzy Grotowski, whom she met in Venice in 1975, was another point of reference during this period, as was
the experience with the Teatès theatre workshop. This led to the two works in which she was involved as a
director.
Uccidiamo il chiaro di luna. Una serata futurista, the title of which evokes the 1909 poem by Filippo Tommaso
Marinetti, stages readings from the vehement texts of the avant-gardists of the early twentieth century; the
interaction of the actors on stage is complemented by stage machinery in the Dadaist style.
Il pianto della Madonna di Jacopone da Todi, a medieval text dedicated to the Passion, narrates the last
moments in the life of Christ, from his humiliations to his trial and crucifixion. In the work staged by Battaglia,
the figure of Christ is played by a woman, a clear allusion to the themes of sacrifice and gender violence that
have always been central to her.
Her experimentation as a director did not stop with theatre. The two films shown here, Festa d’agosto and
Vatinni, were made by Battaglia with professional actors and patients from the psychiatric hospital in Via
Pindemonte.
SECTION IV
The Anthologia installation collects the height of Letizia Battaglia’s work on a path with over 120 photographs,
exploring iconic pictures and less well-known shots. They portray the places and victims of Mafia
assassinations, but also the lives and faces of Palermo society. Images of pain, poverty, death, wealth, hope
and rebellion sketch out a multi-voiced narrative illustrating a historic period spanning more than forty years.
In the photos on Mafia investigations, Battaglia portrayed judges, police officers and men from institutions at
the front line in the battle against Cosa Nostra: from Giorgio Boris Giuliano to Ninni Cassarà, the judge
Cesare Terranova, the President of the Region of Sicily Piersanti Mattarella, General Carlo Alberto dalla
Chiesa and Giovanni Falcone. Numerous photos from the Politici e mafia series are on display, including
those of Salvo Lima and Vito Ciancimino, leading figures in the events involving the entwinement of politics
and the Mafia. The photograph of Giulio Andreotti with the Mafioso Nino Salvo is emblematic: found by the
Anti-Mafia Pool in Battaglia’s archives, it became central to one of the main charges in the trial against the
Christian Democrat leader. Among the main Mafia members portrayed by Battaglia, we find little-known
figures as well as men such as Leoluca Bagarella, shown while being arrested. This picture became an icon
in the struggle against Mafia crimes.
The Eighties were especially prolific for Battaglia. In addition to news photos, she portrayed society in
general, moments of everyday life, women and children in the city’s lower-class districts. Alongside them, she
also captured the bourgeoisie and nobility of Palermo, which played a leading role in parties and receptions,
as well as processions, funerals and religious celebrations. Her experimentation continued in the Nineties,
with re-elaborations, in which the female figure is overlaid on violent historic pictures.
VIDEO
La mia Battaglia – Tribute to Letizia Battaglia
Pazza Palermo by Franco Maresco is a tribute video celebrating Battaglia and her relationship with the
subject of madness and engaging with others. In the film, previewed at MAXXI, several Super 8 sequences –
filmed by the photographer in the late Seventies and early Eighties at the psychiatric hospital in Via
Pindemonte in Palermo – dialogue with literary texts on madness and with a musical score selected by
Maresco.
Le�zia Ba�aglia
JUST FOR PASSION
ISBN: 978-88-985652-07
Dimensions: 34,5 x 24,5cm
Content: Photo, text
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 140
Price: 40 € - 34 £ - 45 $
Market: Visual culture, street photography
Publica�on: November 2016
Language: English
Contributors: P. Falcone, F. Ritchin, A. Bolzoni,
G. Calvenzi, G. Melandri, L. Orlando, F. Imbergamo,
M. Guccione, B. Pietromarchi
Drago is delighted to feature Letizia Battaglia’s work for the second time following the success of her
anthology curated by Paolo Falcone. The Sicilian photographer’s new book “Just for passion” catalogues
her exhibition at the MAXXI the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome. The book explores the
incredible scope and character of Letizia Battaglia’s work. The photographs included capture an intimate
insight into the ambivalence of Italian life, from harrowing images of the Mafia to beautiful portraits of the
women and children of Palermo. “Just for passion” further explores Battaglia’s social commitment from her
political activism in Milan to her volunteer work for a psychiatric hospital in Palermo.
Other occupations outside of photography such as publishing work and contributions to theatre and
cinema are also exhibited. Contributers include the Dean of the International Center of Photography in New
York Fred Ritchin, the curator Paolo Falcone, the journalist Attilio Bolzoni, the photography critic Giovanna
Calvenzi, the Major of Palermo Leoluca Orlando, Palermo’s Anti-Mafia Magistrate Franca Imbergamo, the
Director of MAXXI Art Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, the President of the MAXXI Museum Giovanna Melandri
and the Director of MAXXI Architecture Margherita Guccione. The cover picture is a portrait of the italian
poet Pier Paolo Pasolini.
DRAGO MEDIA KOMPANY srl - Via Maria Adelaide, 12 - 00196 Rome, Italy - T: +39 06 45439018/ +39 06 45439132 - [email protected] - www.dragolab.com
Le�zia Ba�aglia
JUST FOR PASSION
DRAGO MEDIA KOMPANY srl - Via Maria Adelaide, 12 - 00196 Rome, Italy - T: +39 06 45439018/ +39 06 45439132 - [email protected] - www.dragolab.com
Le�zia Ba�aglia
JUST FOR PASSION
Le�zia Ba�aglia
Letizia Battaglia (born 5 March 1935) is an Italian
photographer and photojournalist. Although her
photos document a wide spectrum of Sicilian life,
she is best known for her work on the Mafia.
She was born in Palermo, Sicily. Married at 16, she
took up photojournalism after her divorce in
1971, while raising three daughters.
Over the years she documented 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. Battaglia and Zecchin produced many of the
iconic images that have come to represent Sicily
and the Mafia throughout the world.
She photographed the dead so often that she was
like a roving morgue. “Suddenly,” she once said, “I
had an archive of blood.”
Battaglia also became involved in women’s and
environmental issues. For several years she
stopped taking pictures and officially entered the
world of politics. From 1985 to 1991 she held a
seat on the Palermo city council for the Green
Party, from 1991 to 1996 she was a Deputy at the
Sicilian Regional Assembly for The Network. She
was instrumental in saving and reviving the
historic center of Palermo. For a time she ran a
publishing house, Edizioni della Battaglia, and
co-founded a monthly journal for women,
Mezzocielo. She is deeply involved in working for
the rights of women and, most recently, prisoners.
In 1993, when prosecutors in Palermo indicted
Giulio Andreotti, who had been prime minister of
Italy seven times, the police searched Battaglia’s
archives and found two 1979 photographs of
Andreotti with an important Mafioso, Nino Salvo,
he had denied knowing. Aside from the accounts
of turncoats, these pictures were the only physical
evidence of this powerful politician’s connections
to the Sicilian Mafia.
Battaglia herself had forgotten having taken the
photograph. Its potential significance was apparent
only 15 years after it was taken. In 1999 she received
the Photography Lifetime Achievement of the
Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary
Photography. In 2007 she received the Erich
Salomon-Preis, a ‘lifetime achievement’ award
of the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Photographie
(DGPh) and the most prestigious prize in
Germany. In 2009, she was given the Cornell
Capa Infinity Award by the International Center
of Photography.
Battaglia has a cameo appearance in the 2008 Wim
Wenders film Palermo Shooting as a photographer.
DRAGO MEDIA KOMPANY srl - Via Maria Adelaide, 12 - 00196 Rome, Italy - T: +39 06 45439018/ +39 06 45439132 - [email protected] - www.dragolab.com
Media Relations
T +39 06 8305 5699
F +39 06 8305 3771
[email protected]
enel.com
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Enel’s participation as first private founding member in the Fondazione MAXXI will see the
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Alcantara and MAXXI: Artistic Excellence and Creativity
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