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Francesca Leonardi | Claudia


Campania is a region in Italy that in the recent decades, has seen the fast growth of an international criminal web called Camorra. The “System” of Camorra involves drug trafficking, illegal waste dumping, public works fraud and money laundering through semi-legitimate businesses like restaurants and supermarkets. During a trip made in 2010 in the region, in search of the tangible manifestations of the phenomenon I came to know of the story an abandoned village on the seacoast of the region, the Coppola village, where Claudia lived for the past 15 years.

The Coppola village was a luxury urban conglomeration illegally built at the beginning of the sixties by two brothers of humble origins, coming from a small town in the region’s hinterland highly permeated by the camorra web. Confiscated by the state’s authorities thirty years after its birth and abandoned by most of its original inhabitants, the village has been home to many disadvantaged families belonging to the poorest fringes of society, often bonded to the local criminal dynamics. I met Claudia during one of my first trips to the Coppola village. I remember her being unnaturally swollen, she was going trough a detoxication program. She invited me to her house. I ended up spending entire weeks sleeping on her sofa, trying to get the closest possible to the comprehension on her struggled relationships.

Claudia arrived to the Coppola village approx. 15 years ago. She didn’t need to squat inside an apartment, she came with a man affiliated with a strong Camorra clan. Two daughters and some years later he was convicted for trafficking of weapons and sentenced to eight years of jail. As the women of an affiliated member of the system (the Camorra system) she was soon offered to receive economical sustenance while her man was disabled to help her. She refused. Claudia’s memories of her childhood are made of violence and neglect. She was sold by her mother when she was three years old. Found by her grandmother at six, a former noun, she was brought up with yelling and beating. She was a runaway at 12, and became drug addict at 14, when she was taken in custody by the social services for the following four years. At 18 she met Marcello, a charming man involved in the camorra system, she married him the same year.

Photographing Claudia and her daughters has allowed me to understand the constant struggles of a person surrounded by a criminal environment. The direct bonds between crime and poverty. The precarious balance between compromises and needs. The emotional instability it causes. The photographs also strive to convey the strength a family represents towards the external realities. The aim of my project is to mirror varied arguments, such as poverty, criminality, abuse trough the daily record of the life of a family living in a territory abandoned by the State left to the rules of personal justice.

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