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Photo Essays

Francesca Leonardi | Claudia

ITALY – August 2011. A view of the coppola village where Claudia and her daughters live. All buildings illegally occupied by people living under the poverty line often involved in criminal activities
[C]ampania 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.

ITALY – August 2011. Claudia is seen in her bedroom inside her apartment resting before getting ready to go to her night work.
ITALY – July. 2011. Federica, Claudia’s youngest daughter is seen jumping in a prefabricated swimming pool on top of her building, owned by another abusive inhabitant presently at house arrest for armed robbery.
ITALY – August 2011. The outlet to the sea of the Regi Lagni, less than a mile away from the coppola village. It’s a 250 km long net of water channels created in the 19th century by the Borboni empire to bring water to the territory and to prevent flooding. The whole system of channels is today mainly fed by rain water and sewer dumps.The ground all around this outlet is an illegal dump for unidentified toxic waste.
ITALY – July 2011. Claudia is seen waking up on the sofa where she sleeps during the day to recover from her night work hours, with her youngest daughter Federica.
ITALY – July 2011. Claudia is seen fighting with her boyfriend Chicco from her apartment’s terrace.
ITALY – July 2011. Claudia is seen in a moment of alienation in the streets of the Coppola village
ITALY – July 2011. Claudia is seen together with her oldest daughter Alessandra in her bedroom
ITALY – July 2011. Federica, Claudia’s youngest daughter is seen at the window.
ITALY – August 2011. Claudia and her boyfriend Chicco, are seen during a moment of reconciliation.
ITALY – July 2011. Alessandra, Claudia’s oldest daughter is seen walking in the street of the Coppola village
ITALY – July 2011. Claudia is seen during a break from her night job at a bar where she worked during the summer months waiting tables.
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