In Rome this month, from May 6 – 20 is a photograph exhibition of Stefano Renna’s entitled Camorra: le voci di dentro at the Casa della Memoria e della Storia.
The Camorra is an all too familiar word these days that is cropping up more and more in the media. The Camorra is one of Italy’s most notorious criminal organizations and operates throughout Italy, although it initially sprang up in Campania, a region of Italy located to the south of Rome.
This insidious organization has found its hands into many business activities from prostitution, drug trafficking, trash collecting, blackmail, and kidnapping. The Camorra’s influence and activities were brought to light most recently by the writer/journalist, Roberto Saviano, whose book, Gomorra: viaggio nell’impero economico e nel sogno di dominio della camorra. The Camorra most recently have been blamed on the trash problems of Naples which hasn’t done much to improve the reputation of the Italian government, which seems unable or unwilling to deal with the problem.
Often when we continuously read or hear about these crimes in the media, the crimes (and their victims) become reduced to mere statistics (almost dehumanized), and we become numb or indifferent to the tragedies facing us. Seeing the results of the Camorra’s actions on film through Renna’s photography force the viewer to accept, to see first hand, and to identify with subjects of the photographs. No longer is the Camorra something that you hear about in the news or read about in the paper; it is now something that you can see before you with your very own eyes.
Renna attempts (most successfully, I think) to extol a sense of “humanness” to each of the atrocities by presenting us with different subjects within his various photos:
- the casual observer (as seen from the first photo)
- the criminal (in handcuffs in the second photo)
- those charged to bring the Camorra to justice (the police officers at the crime scene, in the third photo)
- the victims (the casual observers, the police, the criminal whose life is forever changed, and the deady body).
You, the viewer, become engaged, and, more importantly, you become an active participant – almost like one of the men or women in the first photo, watching with interest as the police secure a crime scene created from actions of the Camorra and its members. The larger point to be made is that the victims of the Camorra are not only the corpses (as seen in the 3rd photo) which are presented in many of Renna’s photos, but also those who are affected and touched by Camorra’s actions and atrocities: the casual observers, the police and their entities, the cammoristi who get caught and whose lives are forever changed, and the victims – who may never again walk this earth. Perhaps, as the viewer, you do not realize that you to become one of those “casual observers” — perhaps you, the viewer, are now a victim of the Camorra?
If you are in Rome this month, make it a point to see this exhibition if you can catch it in time. I think that it is important that tourists understand that Rome (and Italy) are more than just ancient sites and old buildings. These Italian cities are populated with real people who ever day face and, at times, endure the hardships created by mafia and mafia-esque organizations like the Camorra. Seeing Italy from various perspectives will make your visit more enjoyable, more memorable and more real.
The exhibition runs from May 6 until May 20th at the Casa della Memoria e della Storia located in Trastevere, Rome (see map below for location). The exhibit is on view from May 6 to May 20th from 10am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday. Entry is free.
If you can’t get to the show but are interested in the photographs and work of Renna, then you can see many of the photos of the exhibition in his new book, L’Ultimo Sangue: Camorra, vittime e carnefici, published by Stampa Alternativa.
For more information, contact the Casa della Memoria e della Storia. It is located at Via di San Francesco di Sales 5 (Trastevere), Rome 00165. They can be reached by telephone at 06 6876543 (drop the first zero and add the country code +39 if calling outside the country).
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*All the photos presented were taken by Stefano Renna and provided courteously by the Biblioteche di Roma for my post.