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Letizia Battaglia and the importance of reporters in documenting reality
Suggestions for young people
On 13th of April 2022, an important Italian female photojournalist died at the age of 87. Her name is Letizia Battaglia, and she is one of the most important photographers in Italy, mostly known for documenting mafia crimes and its victims in Sicily, specifically in the city of Palermo, her hometown.
She started photographing in 1969, working for a Palermitan newspaper. She was the only woman among male colleagues, and the first female photographer hired by an Italian newspaper. In the 70s, Italy was in the middle of the Years of Lead, a period of social and political turmoil marked by a wave of both far-left and far-right terrorism acts. And Battaglia documented that period in Palermo, always trying to inform the public opinion about those crimes, not only the mafia ones. On 6th of January 1980, she is the first photojournalist to arrive at the place where Piersanti Mattarella, the brother of the current President of Italy, was killed in a mafia attack.
She became famous all around the world, till obtaining some international acknowledgments and awards: she was the first European woman receiving the Eugene Smith Prize in New York in 1985. She is still remembered for being “the mafia photographer”, to the point that some of her photos were also used as fundamental evidence during the mafia trials; but she is also known for her great work as a reporter documenting and narrating her city, Palermo, with its contradictions and its people, observing deeply and with a smart and original look the whole of Palermo society.
It is commonly recognized that Letizia Battaglia succeeded in being a professional photojournalist. This is not an easy profession, in particular nowadays with the whole picture culture that increased with social network, where everyone everywhere can be in some way a photographer, taking picture and publishing them. But photojournalism is not just taking pictures. It is a type of journalism, and for this reason it must have the aim of informing in an objective and well-founded way. A photojournalist’s job is to tell a story with pictures. The goal is to convey the truth through the images. Through photographs of some scenarios (war, conflicts, critical social situation, crimes etc.), viewers are able to get a glimpse of what is going on in other places, and to be more aware of society’s ills.
Nowadays, photojournalism is in a period of great change and evolution. Golden Age of photojournalism have gone, but the field still remains vital and even more apt to be timely and relevant with the exponential technological advances that are occurring every day. A lot of young people are being interested and passionate in the photography world, in different ways and for different aim. One of them is the documentary field, the one of reporters, of movie making, or also the one connected with travelling and exploring. These types of job and occupation could have a great future and they are already starting to being more recognised. Young people all over the world want to explore and being informed about what is happening around them, they want to see with their own eyes and try to understand. This is, I think, a really good thing that means that the youth generation is active and involved. And where it isn’t, it should be motivated to be. And one of the most powerful instruments we have, in addition to our voice and knowledge, is photography. It is something that can be done also just with the mobile phone, that is truly a powerful tool. But be careful! Inform and discover throughout photography, is complicated and need awareness, rules and knowledge about not just the instruments used but also about the object to be documented.
Anyways, this can be an important field to explore for young people that want to fight for something, for example for social justice, or it could be a powerful way to exploring and document the climate change, one of the main battles waged by young people. It is not the only one interesting field existing, but it is the one I am personally interested in right now. The news about the death of Letizia Battaglia made me remember about this, and so I wanted to share this reflection with my generation and all the young people around me.
To know a little bit more: Letizia Battaglia, photojournalist who documented mafia crimes, dies aged 87 | Italy | The Guardian; Letizia Battaglia. Voglio ritrarre le donne comuni, simboli di vita e di bellezza - LifeGate