Letizia Battaglia: Breaking the Code of Silence


Open Eye Gallery presents, for the first time in the UK, the intense work of Sicilian photographer and photojournalist Letizia Battaglia (born 1935 in Palermo, Italy). Featuring a large selection of her iconic black and white images, Letizia Battaglia: Breaking the Code of Silence opens from 22 February until 4 May 2014 and will guide the viewer along a journey into one of the darkest periods in post-war Italian history.

Drawing from Battaglia’s personal archive, which comprises over 600,000 images, the exhibition showcases work spanning from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s, including stark documentation of the Sicilian mafia’s violent reign of tyranny, as well as more recent projects. The exhibition offers a unique opportunity to approach her genre-defining photographic practice (often linked to that of American ‘crime’ photographer Weegee) and reflect on the role of photography as an individual and collective means for taking action, bearing witness, providing evidence and documenting history.

Battaglia took up photography in the early 1970s, when she realised that, as a journalist, it was easier to place her articles in newspapers and magazines if these were accompanied by images. After a short period spent in Milan where she met her partner and collaborator Franco Zecchin, Letizia Battaglia returned to Sicily in 1974. After relocating to Palermo and regularly contributing to the daily L’Ora, she became the pictures editor until the newspaper was shut down in 1990.

Over the years, Battaglia has recorded her love/hate relationship to her home-country with (com)passion and dedication, often putting her life at risk. By alternating stark images of death, graphic violence and intimidation connected to the Mafia with poetic still-life photos and intense portraiture of children and women, Battaglia provides a textured and layered narrative of her country.

Letizia Battaglia worked on the front-line as a photo-reporter during one of the most tragic periods in contemporary Italian history, the so-called anni di piombo – or ‘the years of (flying) lead’, as they say in Italian. “[These were] eighteen years in which the ferocious Corleonesi mafia clan would claim the lives of governors, senior policemen, entire mafia families and two of Battaglia’s dearest friends: the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.” (Peter Jinks, The Observer, 4 March 2012).

The selected works on show at Open Eye Gallery illustrate this period and document Battaglia’s attempt to come to terms with that history and reconcile the love for her country with the memory of these dramatic events.

Over the last two decades, Battaglia has persevered in her struggle against the mafia, a fight that she has pursued not only by means of her photographic work, but also as a politician and public figure, a publisher and as a woman.

Image © Letizia Battaglia / courtesy Open Eye Gallery.

Open Eye Gallery

Contemporary Photography in Scotland: Gracefield Arts Centre


Currently on show at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries, Scotland is a programme of contemporary Scottish photography.

Those who have not been able to see the finalists of the Jill Todd Photographic Award in Glasgow have the pleasure of viewing it in Gallery 1 from the 14th February until the 8th March.

The images on display in Gallery 2 are by established photographers produced during the last 35 years, and have been accessioned into the Scottish National Photography Collection since 1980. Photographers include Fay Godwin, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Wendy McMurdo and Murray Johnston. Also on display by Scottish photographer, Alicia Bruce, is a photograph from ‘Menie: A portrait of a North East community in conflict’, a project she began in 2010 documenting the local response to the development of the Trump International Golf Links on the Aberdeenshire coast. Gracefield has a strong collection of photographs and works using photographic techniques, such as the works here by Philip Braham, Norman McBeath and Raymond Moore which explore various themes and imagery.

An exhibition talk with Robin Gillanders will also be taking place in Gallery 2 at Gracefield Arts Centre on 15th February.

Image © Alicia Bruce ‘Mike & Sheila Forbes: Mill of Menie’ 2010

A programme of events can be downloaded here