mimi mollica – terra nostra

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Mimi Mollica

Terra Nostra

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The story I want to tell is about my land, Sicily, the effects of Mafia in our territory, the people that fight against it on the front line and the context in which Mafia has grown and rooted its identity.

The Sicilian reality is a ‘pre modern’ one, rooted within the family system and characterized by an accommodating behavior toward the corrupted system, strongly based on nepotism as opposed to a healthier meritocracy. Commonly diffused is the lack of respect towards the law and its representatives. The resulting scenario is, in fact, one of an orphaned society abandoned to its ill-omened destiny of relentless decadence. Therefore,  the aim of this photographic essay is to capture this backdrop of decay.

Mafia and corruption have destroyed our most beautiful coasts that once were described by artists and writers as a paradise of natural, artistic and archaeological beauty. Cosa Nostra has worn out our economic system by killing market competition through intimidations and a thick network of corruption, and by imposing extortion to 95% of the region’s business, Mafia holds an even stronger economical control of the territory.  The price paid by those who rebelled against this oppression has been reported by blood stained chronicles on newspapers and media.

After many years of pondering on the idea of working on such project I recently felt the urge to photographically deliver my wide perspective on the Mafia phenomenon, in a moment in time where Italy is living its worst political and social crisis since the Fascist era.
This is a long-term project on which I wish to work for several months to come.  Any comments or suggestions are more than welcome.

This Essay has been published on the Financial Times Weekend Magazine on July 18th 2009.

 

Bio:

I was born in Sicily, Palermo where I lived until I turned twenty and decided to move away from Italy. I have always been in love with photojournalism since an early age.

Now I am 34 and photojournalism is what I do for living. I take photos because i have an urge to communicate my views about our time and to show people that what I have had the privilege to witness first hand.

The themes that interest me most are related to society undergoing transitions, identity and migrations. I believe I have grown together with photography both professionally and on a personal level. I have traveled a few countries and met all kinds of people, rich and poor alike, criminals and judges, academics and musicians, interesting people and ugly characters. All of them are part of who I am now.

They gave me the eyes to see and the ears to listen their stories and my deepest self, so photography became for me an neverending journey that I am enjoying as much as I enjoy my life. News about my previous essays, publications, exhibitions and other stuff can be found on my website.

 

Related links:

Mimi Mollica

 

Editor’s note:

Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

47 Responses to “mimi mollica – terra nostra”


  • YUM!!!!
    what a delicious treat on this sunday morning….
    the characters…
    your intimacy….
    giving me a glimpse….
    Love your use of B/W…..
    I like the way you see….
    inspired….
    ***
    will you shoot any color with this project?
    I would encourage multimedia with this….
    Great work!!
    ***

    **

  • Here’s my problem with this. The photos in no way illustrate your artist statement. They are photos of people on the street, weddings and people on the beach. What really bothers me is that you seem to be using these photos to stereotype Italians, invoking “The Godfather” through connotation. I see nothing in the photos to suggest these are mafia figures (which I don’t think they are), although your artist statement could certainly suggest that. Interesting snapshots, but I think the essay fails.

  • I like the pictures, and agree… with Jim (oh my… )

  • JIM…MARCIN

    don’t the captions help you with this? yes, about half the pictures are normal life on the street, because in fact there is normal life on the street in Sicily…however, many of the photos have captions that would indicate that not all is well even in the most mundane situation….isn’t it ok to have words marry with pictures and help the story along? Mimi did say in his first sentence “effects of”, not “here is the Mafia”……..i seriously doubt that Mimi would want to stereotype Italians, particularly Sicilians, since he is one of them…however, i am sure your point will lead to interesting discussion on the necessity, or the lack thereof, to quite literally picture a concept that has been explained in words…

  • I don’t need no captions.. but then perhaps I know too much..

  • Not sure where italians are stereotyped. It is, though not a fault, quite mediterranean if anything. Like Eva says, you’d have to know that part of the world to see that. I could not but relate to Sylvia Battaglia’s humonguous work on sicilian society, an under sung, under spoken, courageous sicilian photographer.

    I enjoyed this, your angles are many, and usually, this means not just a camera position, but total open-midedness and empathy toward one’s subject (but not always. I bet it is for you, Mimi!). What I find in your text which is in your pictures is your enjoyment at taking pictures, and enjoyment at involving yourself with your camera. Damned, now you make me think about me :-)))….

    I have 2 criticisms. I think #19 only comes up as a succesfully composed square frame composition. The others are rather showing us how difficult a format it is, to make succesful compositions. Some spaces in your shot seem, IMO, left out of the dynamic caught in the rest of the frame. #23 works because all that space is so important to what we could imagine the narrative to be for this enigmatic or not so enigmatic last picture (our choice).

    I can’t remember the second criticism…. ;-)

    Thanks Mimi, I’d love to see all your Sicily “rushes” and can’t wait to visit your site.

  • Mimi, I really enjoy your sincere MF photojournalist eye (I have gone through your gallery a afew times before this essay) and in general, this piece of work is no exception. I do see though a few images that are too explicit/literal and do not add to the essay at all (IMO). No need to show the butt of the gun to make “a clear statement” about the bodyguard, or the Godfather poster…

    My favourite, the very suggesting skeletons of the houses scattered along the mountain

    Congratulations!

  • I like many of these photographs..a lot.

    However I’m afraid I am in at least partial agreement with Marcin and Jim on this one.

    The captions do help in some cases, though I not sure why some photos are here, 08 the mask photo, the wedding photos, the street shots. All these shots are strong on their own, and I’m trying hard to connect them with your story Mimi, but am having a hard time.

    I’m sure Mimi does not want to stereotype Sicilians, however many of the people pictured to indeed look pretty grim and menacing, the two shadowy men “having a chat”, the wedding attendants in 12 look like characters from a Fellini film.

    This is clearly an important topic, and I hope you continue to work with it Mimi. I have the utmost respect for people like you who try to make a difference.

    Perhaps it would feed more into a stereotype, but I can just imagine a great soundrack to this.

  • I will try to respond the criticism as we go along. Am I allowed to do so David? Please tell me if the one comment rule is also valid for who’s presenting the work.

    Jim –
    DAH has already answered, and I can only add that what I wanted to show it’s a Sicily that is far away from what people imagine otherwise through Mafia movies and the stereotypes related to it. Unfortunately our history and reality are far more sad than the Hollywood representation of the gangsters wacking everyone and smoking cigars. If you expected that, then I am sorry to say, but you should really rent the Good Fellas Dvd.

    Ramon –
    If I did not include the bodyguard with the gun it would have been impossible to show how this guy lives. However, as this is a work in progress, I’ll keep your words in mind and I’ll do my best to correct the explicit as best as I can.
    The Godfather image is, on the opposite, totally intentional, as the symbol of Hollywood Mafia has sadly become a touristic gadget. This is what hurts me more and this is what I really wanted to show in this photo.

  • MIMI…

    the author is always allowed any number of comments…there is also a discussion going on over under Dialogue…this time do wish i had opened the comments up ..but i think it is too late now…

  • Comment is free. If you wish I am with you in this.
    By the way, David, thanks for showing such dedication and passion. I really appreciate it

  • MIMI,

    I hardly ever start by reading the artist statement (I tend to view the images once first and then read the statement) but actually, for once, I did read he statement before looking at the photographs and it is fair to say that I was expecting something somewhat different, maybe something more direct, overt on the Mafia…. but, passed this initial surprise, I have enjoyed many of the portraits (first portrait is particularly good)… I have lived in Italy for a few years and was fortunate to travel in Sicily (even attended a workshop with David here) and your photographs really capture well these typical expressive faces you see there at the bars, coming out of the churchs on Sunday, in the market… As far as the Mafia goes, short of showing the murders, the racketing etc, it is a hard topic to photograph…the mafia there is everywhere and also no where to be seen in a obvious way…. people sort of know it is there… my sense looking at your photographs is that you are trying to show life in Sicily and give some hints about the mafia without being too direct… Personally, I wonder if you would not be better off NOT to specifically focus on the mafia as a topic but rather focus on simply showing us how you view the Sicilians and their complex nature which of course includes the Mafia but does not have to be your central topic…. Sicilians have a special relationship to the church, religion, traditions and yes also the mafia…. Clearly, you have an eye and your portraits left me eager to see more and how you would capture daily life in Sicily….

    Good luck with this project. I am sure you are familiar with the work of Bruno Barbey on the Italians….

    http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox&VBID=2K1HZS5ROROR&IT=ThumbImage01_VForm&CT=Album&ALID=2TYRYD1EP5M0&PN=1&SH=1&SF=1&PPM=0

    Mimi’s own look at the Sicilians could be a nice book eventually.

    Cheers,

    Eric

  • Eric
    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment.
    It is hard for a Sicilian like me to make people understand what Mafia actually translate in society.
    You see, yours, Jim, Herve and Marcin comments reflect the embedded idea you have on this phenomenon. The reality is very different indeed. I do not expect you guys to comprehend so quickly a reality that you are not accustomed with, but please bare in your mind that here I am talking of effects and context of Mafia, rather than Mafia itself. This is not a flashy reportage on the gangsters, this is what I have been coping with, since I was born. I am offering this to you.

  • 1, 14, 19 and 23, very nice, they work well.

    I actually find it quite hard to comment on documentary series and I don’t know the area, but anyway, I think I’d like to have seen it in colour and representing more everydayness without so much of the dark slant….. or maybe edgier, more darkness and menacing, more slices of light cutting through the black.
    But as you were trying to convey an area oppressed in it’s everyday dealings (even weddings) by the mafia presence then you have succeeded so well done.

  • Mimi,

    With your pictures I finally travelled back to Italy for a little while (the South of Italy that is)…
    I appreciate the way you are trying to reveal ‘la Piovra’.

  • It is invisible, but always there. If those, who directly deal with it, weren’t shown, it were a bunch of very good bw street pictures. But they are shown, giving me a little cold shiver.
    Life seems normal, unless you stand against it.
    There is more, than we can see.

    Congratulations for being published, Mimi.

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  • To all: there is the work of Letizia Battaglia on the camorra. But I believe she worked together with Franco Zecchin. There is also the work of Patrick Zachmann:
    http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox&VBID=2K1HZS5RXMJD&IT=ThumbImage01_VForm&CT=Story&STID=2S5RYD1OJGB4&RW=1308&RH=878

  • Sorry, Patrick Zachmann’s work is in Napoli, not Sicilia.

  • I don’t know what is happening!!!… Next time I will go to my garden, take twenty pictures of flowers by using long lens so I can nicely isolate the background:))… I will call my photo story: “The sad and cruel reality from Afghanistan war” (the story contains explicit material:))… Believe me, I will find words to connect my author’s statement with completely detached pictures of flowers from my garden in Vilnius:)… I have nothing against the author of this “story” at all… I love Sicily, Italy… I really love all of them… but as a spectator I just want to ask – what’s going on here:))?

    It seems, recently, Mr. Harvey hasn’t been receiving enough at least decent material to publish…? All of the best photographers have already been published on Burn, and now… crisis?

    I have told myself, I would never ever write anything negative here on Burn anymore… but I am provoked… I am not indiffernt to photography and its destiny… If the intension of this “story” was to provoke me, then it certainly works though.

  • I think the photographer has a strong point of view about Sicily and has slanted his photos to reinforce that point of view.

  • What, Sicily and no espresso? I get the sense of a great photographer struggling to tell a story that lies hidden beneath the veil of normalcy. Individually I really like many of the shots and would have liked the piece aesthetically without the subtext of mafia and the forced pictures (those that only make sense with a caption) trying to evoke it. Sometimes I think it is the photographers job to witness and bring back the images and leave the story telling to the viewer. I struggle with this too so it is not meant as a personal criticism but the angst of a fellow photographer caught in the same trap at times.

  • Sometimes I think the best photojournalism is so subtle in its inuendo, that only those so familiar with the subject matter are able to reckognize what that image is showing. It seems to me that this may be the case here. Not only are they taken by a local who should be in the best place to understand and document ‘the effects’ that such a criminal network have on a community.

    I think we as photographers should be in the best mindspace, due to our own experiences in documenting people and communities, that often the best images are those that are most subtle in how they show something.

  • You see, yours, Jim, Herve and Marcin comments reflect the embedded idea you have on this phenomenon
    —————————————-

    ?!?!?

    You got me here, Mimi. I never mentionned the Mafia in any of my comments, here on in Dialogue….

  • ANTHONY RZ…

    i am not indifferent to photography and its destiny either….narrowness in all things being one of the things i would fight against the most…aren’t you being a bit too dramatic with your silly flower example?…do not know what you mean by “recently”…just three days ago you were glowing over an essay here on Burn…there is no crises other than the crises of perceptions…if you are really provoked then you will use this energy to go out and produce a really fine essay which we can show to your colleagues right here…do it….

  • Anthony, and may be others too: I think your not unterstanding the pictures, not being able to see them is a problem for lack of education about the subject matter on your side. Almost every Italina could tell you what every single picture is about.. that a lot of them most probably would not is.. because the mafia doesn’t exist.. still, today.

    Fortunately there’s people strong enough to show it, to talk about it, to write about it.

    Let me make another example: Anton’s pictures. If I look at them I can see, yes, nice, great, cool pictures, but what’s all the fuss about them, I mean I can make tattoo pics all over the world, no? Yes. But I’d be wrong, it’s not about tattoo. So by reading the title, the text to the essay, I do one thing if I don’t understand: I go out and search for information, if possible written info first, not other pictures, I try to know what it all is really about.

    I don’t think, but I might be wrong, that it is the photographers duty to give you the whole picture, to make you understand and educate you about everything. He tells his story (and here it’s well told), and tehn it’s up to you.

    Now if you say that the pictures don’t work because they’re ill composed or not framed well, or technically just crap or something like that, then that’s a different thing. But to say the pictures are not covering the essaytext, in this case, is wrong.

    Back under my “keep quiet” rock.. thanks for opening comments here!

    Mimi, sono convinta che la Sicilia E’, tanti siciliani sono delle bellissime persone, proprio come lo sono tanti padani, ohimè ;), grazie di aver fatto vedere la tua storia!

  • Mimi, I appreciate your subtle way of showing the undercurrent of menace in the everyday “normalcy” of life in Sicily. No, you don’t need to hit me over the head with it. I need no dead bodies or photos of mafiosa gatherings to get the idea that all is not as it looks on the surface. Actually I live in a part of Detroit where I understand that a number of members of a Mafia “family” live…and all I see are their wealthy homes with statuary in the lawn and curtains covering all the windows. I also see shiny black Lincolns parked in their driveways. You know, the kind that have black tinted windows so that no one can see who’s riding inside. I feel a chill everytime I drive on the lovely quiet streets where they live.

    Your photos give me the same chill. Congratulations for being published here on Burn.

    Patricia

  • Mimi

    I cannot possibly do justice to your essay right this moment as i am really tired..but i had to say quickly that i have waited for the day when David would publish your work on Burn and though i looked all through the essay, it begs me to stop and smell the Sicilian roses (sorry, Anthony a little pun for you) before writing more.

    But your lead photo, ohmygod, the whole essay could have been contained in this one photo alone. His look; wary almost hunted. His posture; as if the hand in his pocket is propping up his entire torso because he just doesn´t have the strength to bear the story of his life a moment longer, his glance; as if your camera is yet another lethal weapon in a long line of lethal weapons. His reaction to your presence; as if he´s weighing the choice of kill or be killed. A hugely powerful photo, wonderful, wonderful.

    So if i may come back tomorrow and write more..thanks for the opportunity to take my time.

    Best
    Kathleen

  • Mimmi, I don’t like your essay. I think this is a very fast way (and superficial) to show that problem. I saw many shot on your essay, that strange people want to see about mafia.
    Very simple, digestible, and in line with the film point of view, but not the reality, unlukely!
    I saw a lot of beautiful shot on your web site (Tocco di Kalsa), so I think you have got the ability to go deep inside the topic, I think you need more time and especially, You need to go away from rethoric. regards GB

  • Great…:)
    Excellent…:)
    Loves it…watched it over & over..
    thanks mimi…
    peace

  • At British Journal of Photography we did a short piece on Mimi and his work that can be read here if you’re interested:

    http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=868840

  • Many of the essays published on BURN are WORKS IN PROGRESS. The statements for the most part do not clearly emphasize that very important element of information. I think Mimi did a fine job in his description but, a WIP reminder should preface many of these pieces so we can get on with the task at hand.

    The portraits of the prosecutor and journalist are wonderful.
    The street work will give nice context. You have chosen a visually challenging project and trust you are up to that challenge.

    Mimi, I spent three weeks in Palermo in 1980. Much of the “texture” of the city that I remember remains the same. Perhaps it’s the “Pre-Modern” part.

    Paul

  • “i try to photograph thoughts’–mario giacomelli

    he most difficult accomplishment in photography (any kind of photography) is to describe…to be able to capture the sense of a place and the consequence of time and challenge of a place: to evoke, on it’s own terms, the life and character (if this is possible?) of a particular place….

    as both a photographer and a lover of photographer, i always grant both knowledge and expertise to the photographer whose work i am digesting. I always assume that they know more than i: how could they not, they are are one in that moment, of that place. I watched the essay 2x’s before i read the statement, i loved it…i felt there was a weary sadness, the weight of the images and place (feels like very little ‘youthful energy’ is there (which is why i love the haunting/haunted mask picture). Once i read the statement, much of it make sense to me: the tear of a torn up place…that magnificent cemetary on the cliffside, the boneyard of villa’s unearthed….and the emotion i left with was a profound sadness, a wreckage really…the detritus of a gorgeous place and people that seemed to have been wearied…even the 2 beach shots…of the overhead shot of the young couple overlooking the sea: that weight of loss for what ‘might have been’ had not the area been ravaged….

    I always try to understand the author’s point of view, what compells them to both photograph certain places and people and what is the underlying reason to join them…here, for me, it seems to be about the evocation of loss and what that loss has done, from bodyguards to bone-villas to protected politicians to the disappearance of youth to a stoppage of time…..i sense and took away with me much of this before reading the statement (actually, i didnt need the picture with the godfather in the store window), but from the pics alone with the captions….

    whether we believe it or not, people, each of us, carry the place of where we are on our faces and in our movements…maybe it’s only a superficial result (our faces and gestures and movements) but with enough sensitivity, it’s clear that people in palermo are not the same as in little italy, toronto….and that is profoundly clear to me as a viewer here…

    congratulations on the essay and thanks so much for sharing….

    cheers
    bob

  • I have read several times here in Burn that the photos doesnt fit in the artist statement, for me sometimes they just can work together and not as an individual pieces,, I think this is a clear example where the text help us out to get in the essay and for me it works. I like very much your work Mimi and you have been very brave for denouncing the Mafia drama in your land. Nevertheless would have been great, I dont know if possible, get some insigth pictures of the Mafia world and combine them with these showed above.

  • Thank for sharing. I went on you website and I really appreciate your work. I think you really have a talent in expressing human concerns by photography.

    That being said, I find this essay less effective. Some of these pictures are aesthetically interesting but as it was previously mentioned by many, I think the pictures don’t convey the message adequately.

    I think the problem is not the photographer skills (you are obviously extremely talented). For me the problem is the obvious limitations of the medium when it comes to a subject like this one. It is really hard to grasp the unseen with a camera. To help the public to see it you need simplicity in the composition, repetition and progression. I don’t see that in your pictures. Aside from the pictures that show “the seen” (2-3-10-14-18) what I see is various and very different scenes that could have been shot near my house in Montréal (1-5-9-11-12-13-15-19-20) if it were not that people look obviously Italians. From my perspective, the Italian factor is the only link with the mafia. The result of that is that I see only stereotypes (two Italian businessman talking in the street = mafia, serious Italian family = mafia, Italian men in group = mafia). In my opinion, the paradox of your essay is that the fact that you mostly avoided the simple approach of treating the subject directly leads to a really superficial account of the issue that doesn’t go beyond stereotypes for somebody who’s not well informed on the issue like me. If your essay is for people already aware of all you have to show this is ok (despite the fact that I would see the point of such a essay). But the fact that you submitted your essay to Burn witch is not an Italian website, make me believe that this was not your goal.

    Frankly I think it would have been hard to do better. In order to do so, you need either to get into circles of people closely related to the issue share their ordinary day to day life (mafia members or people who have close relationship with them), choose other medium that are more efficient with the unseen (writing and multimedia) or simply go the humble way and show directly the issues in a more documentary style (like you did for a few pictures). Otherwise you could have named you essay “Italianeness” or “life in Sicily” and I would have been ok, nothing fabulous but certainly interesting.

    I think that at the end of the day, as photographers, we need to be aware of the limitation of our medium. Sky is not the limit. This essay shows it.
    I hope my comments help.

    (sorry for my poor English, I’m working on it)

  • Dearest Friends,
    I would like to thank you all for your comments.
    Some have been quite critical about my work, but I would like to put a few things clear.

    First, I will repeat, this essay is NOT about Mafia, but it’s about the effects of it in Sicily and the context in which Mafia has been able to grow.
    There are historical and cultural reasons why Mafia in Sicily has found a very easy ground to flourish, and this essay is my account of it.

    Secondly, I would like to stress that this is an ongoing project, and I am at the beginning of it, so I will obviously go deeper into the subject, like some of you rightly suggest.

    The problem I found with the main critique posed on my essay, is that some of you, expect blood and guns in a story that involves Mafia, but the reality is that there are very little Mafia homicides nowadays even if the scar is still soaring, and this anyway it was never my intended subject.
    Mafia has drastically changed in the years, and what I am showing it’s what Cosa Nostra has caused. A few of you have been really shallow in judging my essay as not fitting the statement. If you do not know what Mafia looks like through its effects, then I would suggest to pull back a little, and look with more attention both my statement and my photographs.

    Some of you even suggested to take pictures of Mafia members!!!! How ignorant that could be!!!!
    Do you think Mafia in Sicily is like a bunch of (very easy to photograph) banditos in Rio? You obviously do not have a clue of what you are talking about.

    Everyone is more than welcome to contact me via email, to discuss this further, if anyone of you should feel like.

    Thanks to DAH and Anton and thanks to ALL, for viewing my photos.
    All the best
    Mimi

  • Loved the pictures – I particularly like the unselfconscious gaze into the camera of several of the subjects.

    I’ve read an enormous amount of serious – as opposed to sensationalist – works on the problems of Sicily and southern Italy by the likes of Claire Sterling and Alexander Stille as well as Roberto Saviano’s ‘Gommorah’. Because of this background knowledge I believe I can grasp what the essay is saying but despite this I have a certain sympathy with some of the views expressed earlier – to anybody viewing these images without a significant amount of prior information or experience of Sicily they simply appear generically Mediterranean.

    Indeed, I live in the city of Málaga in southern Spain and virtually everyone one of the pictures could have been composed here, particularly the wedding, beach and street scenes. The view captioned ‘Man sun bathing in a polluted beach of Palermo’ is uncannily similar to the view a few hundred yards from where I’m sitting right now, looking towards the port of Málaga. Right down to – I’m presuming – the dog turds and litter.

    Nevertheless, an interesting and enjoyable selection – I’d certainly like to see more of the Mimi Mollica’s work.

  • Congratulations on a very interesting work. It is unnecessary to parade before a camera a series of corpses to be able to understand that institutionalized crime has its effects on the population, the way they react, their appearance, their integration into the fruits of criminal activity, all by virtue of the ineffectiveness of the State to protect its inhabitants. They become victim / participants abandoned to their own luck, and one can correctly surmise that they want to continue living. What is antisocial becomes a social norm.

    Sincerely,
    DR. WILLIAM RICHARD PABST CATHEY
    ABOGADO Y NOTARIO PUBLICO
    nicalaw@amnet.com.ni

  • This is capturing. I have fond memories of Sicily, my family and it’s surroundings. And in no way, does this alter that image. It’s a point of view I see from a citizen fisrt hand. If you haven’t lived there, then you shouldn’t comment on anything other than the quality of the photos. I love this art.

  • the lead photo is just phenomenal. so good.

  • all by virtue of the ineffectiveness of the State to protect its inhabitants
    ————————————-

    It’s a bit more complex than that, but we’d have to go over how Italy, not just Sicily, came to be a State (your capital letter, William),a country, and discussing the cultures it carried into that national entity, as well as the political behaviours that developped in time along it. Both, culture and politique, informing the covenant, or covenants actually, between ruler (govnmt) and people (inhabitants).

  • Mollica explicitly states that his photographic essay is about his land, specifically about the EFFECTS of Mafia in that territory, those that struggle to combat such disastrous effects, and the larger social context in which the organization has developed and firmly entrenched itself. Clearly, this focus is lost on many commentators, who perhaps expect something more obvious and sensationalistic. The Sopranos go to Sicily.

    In opposition to such blatancy, in professing to capture the ‘backdrop of decay,’ Mollica clearly outlines that his work has a wider scope; that his approach is oblique and is a record of the long, slow, and pervasive aftermath of such an organization, evident for instance in the devastated landscapes, in the economic depravity, in the general malaise of a society that has been seized for ages by such deeply rooted corruption. The “mafia” isn’t merely the ostentatious display of wealth, thuggery, murder, etc., it is a nefarious and widespread socio-economic phenomenon that is generally invisible. Like all old trees, such roots stretch nearly to the other ends of the earth and are exceedingly difficult to unearth. Remnants always remain . . .

    Why some ask are the wedding pictures in this essay? It could be to illustrate the kind of moral hypocrisy of the mafia, whom, like Mussolini, espouse familial and religious values in order to uphold an image of normalcy all while being absolutely corrupt. Just as the masked figures, the shadows, and the half-hidden faces may all be illustrative of the obscurity and the very duplicity and dissimulation of such organizations. There is a subtlety to the photographic essay then and, in the end, I think we must keep in mind that what is offered here is not an entire work itself but only a fragment of it, thus any total judgment (genuine critique) isn’t possible.

  • Voltana,
    Thank you so much for your comments, they really help people to understand better what I am trying to do here. Who are you? Are you a photographer?
    GMcG, dmartines, herve and Dr. William Richard Pabst Cathey
    Thanks so much also to you. your comments are indeed very stimulating. THANKS

  • My first essay to comment on after a long break while I wait patiently for some snaps to upload…

    Mimi, I like your pictues very much but I am in total agreement with Anthony and others who found a problem with the stated aims of the essay. It’s probably easiest if I say it like this – I can take a ton of pictures of india – cities, poverty, rural poverty, dirty buildings and so on. And then I can write a statement about about how this is the effect of corruption in india. Well it’s true, these are the visual effects of corruption probably more than any other explanation in india. But somehow I don’t think this would wash either. Without corruption India (where I am now) would be a darn sight more together and look it. Now is this acceptable for a photo essay? You and DAvid apparently think it is, but I would say not unless I write precisely how the process that leads to such and such a building that I take a picture of ended up being so grubby, explain why these people in teh pictures are so dirt poor, why the pavement is a shambles, why the roads get built over here but not over there. I think your shot about the buildings on the hillside (which I like very much) is the one or two or three shots here that seems to be about the issue. The rest really come across to me as the appearance of Sicily, the culture of sicily and really not much more than that. Of course the mafia is integral to the culture of sicily but can you photograph it. You pictures and your text haven’t really made the connections and that’s the problem I find. I think it would work better if working from either the inside or from pics of things like funerals as Anton has done. Anton’s approach is the exact opposite of what Mimi has done and a picture of a man tattoed is nothing as Eva (if its her) says. Tattoos have a historical significance to these criminals that and its a particularity of the criminal class first before fashion. Tattoos in antons pictures are highly pertinent and representative of the Japanese mafia. Can you same the same about a wedding or people on the beach in sicily or an old man with an odd face? How is that man with an odd face an effect of the mafia. HOw is that wedding an effect of the mafia. I just don’t get it and the essay doesn’t show it.

    I think making an appropriate link between images and concept/story is the tricky part of creating a photo essay and often here we’ve seen it fail. I will always remember the photo story by W Eugene Smith of the Family Doctor. Those pictures do tell the story. That seems to be too literal an idea of a photo essay for some people’s taste but if the pictures and captions don’t tell the story, then where is the story. If its in the statement then its really a photo essay.

  • I only just read voltana’s comment. didn’t have time to read them all so I quit halfway through. Voltana is eloquent and I am sure he does express Mimi’s views but this arguement is unpersuasive finally. It’s not enough really for a photo essay. Maybe if you simply described the images as the appearance of mafioso sicily. Or why not just say this photoessay is about Sicily where the mafia rules, and leave it at that. And then you can have your accompanying text about the mafia but then for me, the text would be about the mafia and the pics would be about sicily. YOu think its one and the same . Well it is and it isn’t. Pictures that don’t show what they purport to show, simply don’t show it. Any way the pictures are good and that counts for a lot.

  • I only just read voltana’s comment. didn’t have time to read them all so I quit halfway through. Voltana is eloquent and I am sure he does express Mimi’s views but this arguement is unpersuasive finally. It’s not enough really for a photo essay. Maybe if you simply described the images as the appearance of mafioso sicily. Or why not just say this photoessay is about Sicily where the mafia rules, and leave it at that. And then you can have your accompanying text about the mafia but then for me, the text would be about the mafia and the pics would be about sicily. YOu think its one and the same . Well it is and it isn’t. Pictures that don’t show what they purport to show, simply don’t show it. Any way the pictures are good and that counts for a lot.

  • Andrea thanks for your comments,
    It seems you like more photocopies than photographs.
    About W E Smith though, even if that essay has nothing to do with mine and it’s therefore not comparable, I love it to bits.

  • ciao Mimi, queste foto sono molto belle ed esplicative: la mafia c’è anche quando non si vede. grazie davvero per il tuo lavoro, ho visitato il tuo sito! ti faccio tanti complimenti e in bocca al lupo, continua così…

    manu

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