Born in Palermo on 5th March 1935, Letizia Battaglia is among the foremost female photo reporters in Italy. In 1969 she started to work as a journalist for the daily newspaper L’Ora in Palermo. It was during this time that she began taking photographs.
In 1971 she joined the photographer Santi Caleca in Milan; here she had the opportunity to photograph the cultural unrest around the Palazzina Liberty, as well as intellectual figures like Pier Paolo Pasolini and Franca Rame. She also took photos for the weekly newspaper ABC (at the time run by Ruggero Orlando), and the periodical Os, as well as the magazines Le Ore, Homo, Duepiù and Vie Nuove.

In 1974 Letizia and Santi received the proposal from the newspaper L’Ora to take care of the photographic services and decided to go back to Palermo.
At the end of 1976 Santi returned to Milan; Letizia took on the work of the newspaper L’Ora until 1991, supported by Franco Zecchin, with whom she founded the
Informazione Fotografica and the Laboratorio d’IF).

During these 20 years Letizia Battaglia was one of the main witnesses of the mafia wars and photographed some of the bloodiest episodes in the republic’s history including the murders of magistrates, policemen and politicians. At the same time, she developed a photographic sensitivity of women, girls, and Sicilian children who lived in miserable and poverty-stricken conditions.

As part of her anti-mafia activism, together with Umberto Santino, Anna Puglisi, Franco Zecchin and others, she co-founded the Centro siciliano di documentazione Giuseppe Impastato in 1977.

In the 1970s and 1980s she attended a course on directing at the theatrical school Teatés, which at the time was led by Michele Perriera. She also directed plays and theatrical workshops at Palermo’s psychiatric hospital.

She was the first European woman to receive the Eugene Smith Grant in New York in 1985 for her social photography, which was shared with Donna Ferrato.

In 1986 Letizia Battaglia felt the need to dedicate herself to politics. She ran for office as a city councilor in Palermo in the Verdi party. In 1987 she became the Council Member for Urban Livability in Leoluca Orlando’s council and in 1991 she was the regional deputy with La Rete.

After the 1992 murders of the magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino she decided that she no longer wanted to photograph mafia criminals.

Letizia Battaglia also had experience of being an editor: in 1986 she founded a monthly cultural and political magazine GrandevuGrandezze e bassezze della città di Palermo – and in 1991, together with Simona Mafai and other women she co-founded Mezzocielo, a bi-monthly magazine created by and for women. In 1992 the publishing house Edizioni della Battaglia was set up.

She received the Dr. Erich Salomon Award from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie in 2007.

In 2009 she was once again recognised in New York with the Cornell Capa Infinity Award. She was recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize by Peace Women Across the Globe and in 2017 she was the only Italian woman included in the New York Times’ list of the world’s most influential women. In November of the same year, she founded the Centro Internazionale di Fotografia in the Cantieri Culturali della Zisa, Palermo which she managed until the end of her life.

In 2020 Letizia Battaglia shot photographs for Lamborghini for the advertising campaign With Italy for Italy.

Between 2020 and 2021 she told her life story to her friend, the director Roberto Andò. He made a film in two parts called Solo per passione – Letizia Battaglia fotografa, which was shown in Italy on Rai Uno in May 2022.

In 2021 she founded the association Archivio Letizia Battaglia with her grandchildren Matteo and Marta Sollima with the aim to promote and safeguard her work.

Letizia Battaglia passed away in her home in Palermo on 13th April 2023, greatly loved by her friends and family. The guardianship of her archive of work is entrusted to the association Archivio Letizia Battaglia.

Timeline made by Paolo Falcone and Archivio Letizia Battaglia

5 March 1935 Letizia Battaglia was born in Palermo into a bourgeois family. Her father Cesare worked in the merchant navy, on many different ships. For this reason, the family had to move from one city to another, first to Naples, then to Civitavecchia, and finally to Trieste.

In 1945, Letizia Battaglia went back to Palermo at the age of ten. Morbid male attention, and the first abuse suffered in her young life led her father to lock her up at home.

In 1951, at the age of sixteen, she ran away and married Franco Stagnitta. Letizia out with intellectuals, particularly of the avant-garde theatre, and over time built a very intense relationship with director Michele Perriera.

In 1952, she became a mother of her first daughter, Cinzia, at seventeen. Her the second daughter, Angela, was born two years later. She had her third daughter Patrizia at twenty-four.

In 1967, she met the photographer Santi Caleca, with whom she was romantically involved for a few years.

In 1969, she collaborated with Palermo’s daily L’Ora as a ‘summer contributor’. The portrait of Enza Montoro attached to an article written by Letizia is the first photograph published in her career.

In 1971, she moved to Milan, with two of her three daughters and penniless. From 1971 to 1974 she worked as a photographer between Milan, Genoa and Sicily. In the city of Milan, she had the chance to photograph the very lively cultural life around the Palazzina Liberty, and intellectuals such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Franca Rame.

At the end of 1974, she went back to Palermo. She became director of photography at the daily newspaper L’Ora. She formed the first photographic team with Santi Caleca.

In 1975, she met Franco Zecchin. It was a great love story: Franco moved to Palermo, contributing, together with Letizia, to one the most fertile periods in the history of photography.

In 1977 she meets Josef Koudelka who became a great friend, he teaches, to Letizia and Franco, to read the different photography levels.

From 1974 to 1992, Letizia Battaglia was one of the main witnesses of the mafia war: she photographed some of the most significant episodes in one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of Sicily and Italy. With her photographs, she bears witness to the murders of magistrates, policemen and carabinieri, journalists, entrepreneurs and mafiosi in the war between Mafia clans. She also photographed arrests, funerals, demonstrations, and protests.

Her photographic sensibility mostly focused on women, girls and children living in poverty in the alleys, neighbourhoods and slums of Palermo, creating sweet, poetic images that lovingly describe their dramatic social conditions.

On 6 January 1980, she and Franco Zecchin arrived on the scene where Piersanti Mattarella had just been killed.

In 1985, she was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant for social photography in New York. First woman (with Donna Ferrato) and first among Europeans to receive the prestigious award. She exhibited at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

In 1986, together with Franco Zecchin, she founded the magazine Grandevù – Grandezze e bassezze della città di Palermo.

In 1986, she joined the Green Party, the political organization that wanted to stop disproportionate housing developments in Palermo. She was appointed City Councillor.

In 1987, she became Councillor for Livability and a member of Palermo’s City Council led by Leoluca Orlando, who was the protagonist of the ‘Palermo Spring’ and a Regional Parliament Member with La Rete party.

She would lead some important battles in the City Council against excessive building developments along the coast. During the day, with a small group of gardeners and a handful of ex-convicts, she would clean up some areas in the city.

In 1989 the Chroniques siciliennes exhibition in Paris, at the Palais de Tokyo, co-signed by Letizia Battaglia and Franco Zecchin.

In 1992, she founded the publishing house Edizioni della battaglia and the magazine Mezzocielo, a bimonthly magazine designed and produced only by women.

(1992-93) After the massacres of Prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and the murder of Father Don Pino Puglisi she decided to stop photographing mafia crimes. The last photograph is a portrait of Rosaria Costa, widow of Vito Schifani, the body guard who was killed in the Capaci bombing together with Prosecutor Falcone.

In 1993, the Anti-Mob Investigation Office found a film negative in her archives dated 1978. Depicting Giulio Andreotti with the mafioso Nino Salvo, it was seized by prosecutors. The snapshot turned out to be one of the main charges against the former seven-time Prime Minister of Italy.

With Franco Zecchin she founded the Informazione Fotografica Agency, which would operate until 1994.

In 1999, in San Francisco she was awarded the Mother Jones Photography Lifetime Achievement Award for documentary photography.

In 2000, her first istitutional public solo exhibition was held in Palermo, her city, entitled Passion, Justice, Freedom, during the Palermo Festival on the 20th century. Taken from the book Passion, Justice, Freedom.

In 2003, she left Palermo and moved to France. She returned to Palermo a year and a half later.

From 2004, she began working on the Rielaborazioni series.

In 2007, she received the Dr. Erich Salomon Award from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie in Cologne. In 2009 in New York she was presented with the Cornell Capa Infinity Award.

In 2013, she created Gli Invincibili series.

In 2015, her first large retrospective exhibition entitled Anthologia was staged in Palermo at the Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa. Several other works were then added at the Per Pura Passione exhibition held at the MAXXI, Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome, and at the Palermo exhibition held at the Moreira Salles Institute in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil. The exhibition Sono io at Palazzo Ducale in Genoa is a further update of these previous exhibitions.

In 2017, she was listed by the New York Times as one of the eleven most representative women of the year and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Peace Women Across the Globe.

In 2017, she founded the International Centre of Photography in Palermo at the Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa, which she directed until her death.

In 2019, the exhibition entitled Letizia Battaglia. Photography as a life choice was held at the Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice and then staged at Palazzo Reale in Milan with the title Storie di strada. This exhibition continues in Ljubljana entitled Photography as a life choice.

In 2020, she did a photo shoot for Lamborghini on the occasion of the campaign With Italy for Italy.

In 2021, she founded the Associazione Archivio Letizia Battaglia together with her grandchildren Matteo and Marta Sollima.

In 2022, the story of her life became a two-part film with the title: Solo per passione – Letizia Battaglia fotografa, directed by Roberto Andò for Rai 1. Starring Isabella Ragonese, it was broadcast in May 2022.

On 13 April 2022, Letizia Battaglia passed away in her home in Palermo surrounded by her loved ones.

Since 2022, her photographic archive has been entrusted to the Associazione Archivio Letizia Battaglia.