Most of us have had to be courageous at one time or another. Sometimes we deliberately build courage into our persona when faced with a difficult task as when we must tell an employee that his/her services are no longer needed. Or, sometimes courage floods up from somewhere when we come to the rescue of a small child who steps out into a busy street. Of course, there are those who live in the constant state of courage like soldiers, policepersons, fireperesons or EMTs. Then there are those who overcome death threats and/or smashed trade tools to do what he/she feels compelled to do. One such person is Letizia Battaglia.
In Sicily during the 70’s and 80’s, the Mafia threatened to take over the island. One photojournalist deliberately took pictures of the horror the Cosa Nostra left in its wake, Letizia Battaglia. Ms. Bataglia. Sometimes using an illegal police scanner, this intrepid photojournalist arrived to photograph what she called an, “Archive of Blood”. At a time when many of the poor of Sicily did not have access to television news, they saw the work of the mafia through photographs on the pages of the left leaning newspaper, L’Ora.
Those photographs, taken with great sensitivity, have become part of Italy’s cultural history. They transcend journalism to appear in museums and art books. What a transition from photos for a newspaper to cultural imprint to history!
Today, at 82, Ms. Battaglia admits to being afraid during that period of time, but she is still here. She still has the energy of her 20, 30 or 40 year old self. In fact, her latest project is to establish the first photography museum in Palermo, Sicily. Laughingly, Ms. Battaglia says, “Maybe I feel strong because today, I am my own master, and this gives me strength. Like Napoleon.”