Valerio Spada – Gomorrah Girl

Valerio Spada

Gomorrah Girl


It’s about adolescence, choices and chances in a land of Camorrah (the name of the Mafia in Naples).

On March 27th, 2004, Annalisa Durante, at the age of 14, was killed in Forcella, a Naples area under the Giuliano clan’s egemony.

Annalisa and two of her friends were in front of her father’s small store, leaning on a car, talking with Salvatore Giuliano, a young Camorrah boss, then 22. Two killers on a motorcycle and uncovered faces pop out of a side street and open fire. Their aim is to kill Guiliano, who hides behind the car and starts to shoot back at them. The two friends of Annalisa find a getaway on the rigth side in a small street, while Annalisa runs in the opposite direction, where the killers are driving away.

One of the three bullets fired by Giuliano hits Annalisa in the head, immediately she falls lifeless to the ground. Salvatore Giuliano was charged for homicide and is serving 24 years in prison.

This photographic journey starts from Annalisa’s father, Giovanni Durante, who still works in the same store in Forcella. Since that day he brings breakfast with milk at 9 every morning to his daughter’s grave.

Annalisa was buried along with her cell phone, which was her father’s wish, since she used to call him five times per day, every day. Generations of wrong choices and mistakes that have ripped families and whole communities in this region apart.

In this book there are portraits of girls whose destinies can still change if not the destiny of the area in which they are growing up. Annalisa was one of them. “Gomorrah Girl” shows the problems of becoming a woman in a dangerous, crime ridden area.

Adolescence is almost denied, at 9 they dance, move and make themselves up as tv personalities and dream to become one of them. At 13 or 14, very often, they become mothers, skipping the adolescence which is lived fully everywhere else in Italy.

I think I’d like to make a series of books on this, and keep shooting in the same area for all my life.




Born in 1972 in Milan. After some years of occasional works in fashion and commercials, directed some music videos. For the last 4 years he’s shooting in Naples and self published his first book, in March 2011. Currently lives between New York, Paris and Piacenza.


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Valerio Spada


22 Responses to “Valerio Spada – Gomorrah Girl”

  • A really sad story. Told in a good way.
    a piece of Europe I did not know about until now.

  • I really enjoyed viewing this piece. Obviously the story is not at all enjoyable, but how this has been crafted is.

    Would have liked to have seen the face/eyes of the father. Any reason for not including him (besides image 24)?

  • Sad Sad reality. Nicely told through your photographs Valerio. I felt the edginess of the place.

  • Another story about young women. Again, lost innnocence, lost opportunitys, lost souls, “choices and chances”.

    This time, it is packaged as art instead of photojouralism. ‘

    There has been a lot of buzz about Gomorrah Girl, I’m glad to finally get a look at it. There is another edit on Valerio’s site, but this edit seems about right.

    Of course, being presented here beside “Bitterest Pill” invites comparisons, and begs a lot of questions. How effective either approach is in making a difference in the lives of the subjects? Is that the intent?What are the ethics involved in turning the under-belly of life into art rather than into magazine pages?

    Congratulations Valerio, nicely done. I hope you do continue to photograph and make the series of books you mention.

  • Gordon,

    This seems more “real” and less artistic than the “Bitterest Pill”!
    That is why I decided to write a comment and not in the other one. This has more weight in my opinion.
    I’m not diminishing the impact of the other versus this one….just that this one spoke louder to me. Perhaps this is David and burn crew testing this audience?!?!?
    Either way this essay is well told and presented.


    we do like to do certain kinds of stories together when we can…not to “test” exactly, but just to get you thinking about the ways photographers tackle difficult subject matter…in both cases, stories close to home…

  • David,

    I totally get it. I can’t say why this one sparked something in me instead of the other one but it sure got me thinking!
    Laura El Tantawy single a few weeks back did the same to me.

  • The essay had all the ingredients that I generally like but don’t get much from the piece.

    It almost a little too generic and without caption info the same set of images could, really, be duplicated

    Not to discredit Valerio for the effort but I think there are some missing pieces to the puzzle needed to
    elevate it above just another hard luck piece.

  • Whew!!!

    So very, very, powerful.

    A loud story, told quietly, subtly; a place of bright color presented in subdued color.

    Every picture makes me want to stop, gaze and ponder.

    It is art. It is photojournalism.

    Good photojournalism is art.


    Awesome story, I read Gomorrah by Saviano and I did not believe that was true… I think the hardest part in this essay is getting there, inside that building… meeting people is the key.
    Bravo, keep going

  • David

    Thanks so much for having me here. Its a very well done platform, I’m looking at the essay on an Ipad and at fullscreen with captions popping in and out feels so natural going through it that is the closest thing to my book I saw on the web. Great job. Thank you again.

    Thomas, Jonathan, Gordon, Carlo

    Thanks for sharing your feelings towards this story. It’s great to see that my work is able to reach your eyes.


    Thanks for your question. I shot this picture with a small compact film camera, at the height of my and his heart, and at Annalisa’s necklace height, same axis. I was recording my talk with Giovanni, listening for the first time to Annalisa’s story. I asked him if I can take a picture of his necklace and he agreed.
    It’s the only image of Annalisa and her father in the whole book and body of work. I guess his dignity, his strength were just too much for me to handle with a camera. That was also the last Kodachrome film I ever shot. When the film came back processed, it was all clear.


    Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

  • Hi Valerio,

    Thanks for sharing this with us. This is seriously strong, ballsy work, in my opinion.

    I particularly like the mixture of styles used to unravel a seriously thorny subject, over what seems to be an extended period of time.



  • While driving on the highway Napoli-Salerno this morning, looking at the buildings right under the bridges, some half finished, with waste building up all around, one wonders about who lives there, where talking about quality of life seems a bad joke.. comparing it to what we can listen to on the news, daily, politicians taking good care of their own business, seemingly forgetting about their people.. that’s where Camorra has an easy entry ticket..

    Here, like with the previous essay, change starts right there, with you, shift in thinking and behaving.. this is Naples, Europe.. no excuses, no third world country, not far away and exotic.. Valerio Spada’s backyard.. my backyard..

    This work is not new to me, been following it for a bit now, glad Valerio keeps going! Grazie!

  • This is a strong story but I think the photo essay is not well focused. Not sure where to attribute it. Maybe it has to do with the apparent and unavoidable lack of photographs of Annalisa.
    The essay escapes the coldness and detachment of a forensic investigation by mixing up portraits of adolescent girls. The viewer is thus directed to project the missing Annalisa on them and an emotional rapport is established. However none of these would work without the aid of the captions. No matter how captions are integral to photojournalism, the photos should be able to structure a kind of narrative all by themselves. This is my humble opinion of course and I might not be looking at the essay from the right angle.
    I don’t know whether is a pure coincidence or the inception of a new trend but I think there have been three books that left a mark this year of a direct or indirect forensic nature.

  • Imagine switching styles between the two essays: portaits of Gomorrah girls in the style of Akash or this type of essay in the brothels of Bangladesh. Do the sensibilities uniquely match the contexts, or would they work equally well? I don’t know Europe well, but is it a culture of isolation, of people drifting apart? That’s how I feel looking at these images. Despite the poverty in my part of the world, I think community and kinship are perceived differently, and that it’s more natural, less uncomfortable, too get up close and see someone face to face.

    As for me, this essay doesn’t move me in the same way, but these people are farther away from my backyard than the brothels of Bangladesh.

  • Andy..

    That’s not something that exists this way, Europe is made of so many different countries and cultures that a statement like yours is not correct at its base.

  • #22 is so above the rest (I am not often as enthralled by essays as by pictures), it deserves a cropping and to fly on its own, shared and printed artfully. Classic portrait, with a superb if understated stance that situates it in time. Really, some moments are made of grace and it found its way into your frame. A superb achievement on your part.

  • Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Great work, just a little surprised there is no mention of it winning this year’s grand prize in the BLURB book competition in the write up.

  • i dont know why but this band comes to my mind when i watch this slideshow

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