While in Rome this weekend I visited the MAXXI museum. The museum itself is worth a visit even if none of the exhibitions are of interest. There was five different exhibitions showing this weekend. I wanted to visit just one. Just for Passion by Laetizia Battaglia. She is an Italian photographer born in 1935. I think she now lives in Paris but she was born in Palermo, Sicily.
Her early life was uneventful. She married at sixteen thinking this would make her free. But her husband, who was older, did not approve of her continuing her studies. She wanted to be a journalist. She stayed with her husband for twenty years and bore him three children. But at he age of 38 she took her three children and moved to Milan. She was penniless but she found work as an independent journalist. She soon realised that she needed to have photographic images to support her stories so she started to take pictures. She met her second partner Franco Zecchin in Milan and they moved back to Palermo. She worked as a journalist for L‘Ora for almost twenty years taking over 600,000 images. Much of her work was to try to expose the brutality of the Mafia. The images are heart breaking.
She also started several magazine many devoted to anti-mafia material as well as feminist work. Eventually she decided that the only way she could truly fight the Mafia was in politics. She became an elected member of Parliament for the Green Party. But she left politics and returned to her camera. At 58 she decided to let her husband, who was twenty years her junior, go. She felt he still had a life to live but not with her. He was the love of her life.
Eventually in her late seventies she left Palermo to move to France. Her mantra to her grandchildren was “I tried” and she certainly did. She was fearless in going to places where the Mafia had committed atrocities. She recorded what had happened there. But in the end she felt defeated. She says, of the Mafia, in a video, at the exhibition, “they do not kill anymore, they have no need to, they are in power”. I found this really chilling.
She is a woman to be admired for sticking to her principals. I would love to meet her.