Men lying in their bloodsoaked clothes on streets, masked children clutching guns without flinching – these are the harrowing scenes that find their way into the black-and-white photographs of Letizia Battaglia. For the first time in the UK, Battaglia’s work will be shown at Open Eye Gallery, offering viewers the unique opportunity to approach her genre-defying practice and contemplate the role of “photographic activism” in post-war Italian history.  

In the course of capturing these images, Battaglia has often found her own life in jeopardy. She worked on the front-line as a photo-reporter during one of the most tragic periods in recent memory, the so-called anni di piombo (the years of “flying lead” in Italian). While intense emotions of grief, violence, anger and anguish are rife in her images, what also comes through is a palpable effort to restore stillness and an unshakable sense of humanism to the policemen, Mafia families, women and children that she has encountered. Breaking the Code of Silence is moving and heartbreaking in equal measure, reconciling Battaglia’s love for her country with her abhorrence for the tragic national events that she has witnessed and experienced.

Breaking the Code of Silence will run until 4 May.

Open Eye Gallery, 19 Mann Island, Liverpool Waterfront, L3 1BP 

Images courtesy of the artist and the gallery.