Never complain about a stressful day at work ever again, chances are Letizia Battaglia has you well beaten. For more than 20 years the Italian confronted the bloody fallout of a nation in the grip of organised crime, unflinchingly capturing the scenes of horrific violence that resulted from the gangs’ struggle to win and maintain power by any means necessary. Breaking The Code Of Silence draws on Battaglia’s own archive of over 600,000 images which she began compiling at the start of her career as a photojournalist in the early 1970s.
Battaglia’s most prolific period of activity – from the ’70s to the early ’90s as a contributor and later picture editor of Sicilian newspaper L’Ora – coincided with what Italians referred to as the “anni di piombo” or “years of (flying) lead”. It was a reign of terror lasting 18 years in which the fearsome Corleonesi crime family murdered judges, politicians, police officers and members of rival factions apparently at will. The archive images selected for this show move between grisly death scenes and intense portraiture. Both genres utilise Battaglia’s stark black and white style some have likened to that of the earlier New York press photographer Weegee; her hard-hitting images of murder combine the factual style of a crime scene documentarian with the eye of an artist. Breaking The Code Of Silence is being shown at Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool from 22 February to 4 May. Compelling.