POV

Francesco Cito: No Code of Honor

Warning: The following article contains graphic material, discretion is advised.

Interview by Icarus Blake - icarus@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos by Francesco Cito
Naples 2000: Drug trafficking at Le Vele popular housing Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 2000: Drug trafficking at Le Vele popular housing
Photo © Francesco Cito

When the film adaptation of the book “Gomorra” was released in the US, it was lauded as a gritty look at the Neapolitan mafia called Camorra, a break from the romanticism of Hollywood blockbusters like “The Godfather”. Italian Photojournalist Francesco Cito brings that gritty realism to the level of documentary, deeper than any fictionalized account could ever hope to achieve.

Napoli 1983: Armed Camorra member being questioned  Photo © Francesco Cito

Napoli 1983: Armed Camorra member being questioned
Photo © Francesco Cito

Interview with Francesco Cito. Italian photojournalist.

Citizen Brooklyn: When did you shoot the ‘Camorra’ series and why?
I shot them between 1982 and 2005, but the majority of them are from the eighties. I had just covered the civil wars in Afghanistan and Lebanon when I realized that the amount of deaths caused by the Camorra were as many as those in the Lebanese civil war. The Camorra was a hidden war at home, I decided to report on it.

Naples 1983: Raffaele Renini killed in front of a bar in Casavatore Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1983: Raffaele Renini killed in front of a bar in Casavatore
Photo © Francesco Cito

CBK: How did you gain their trust?
Many of the shots were taken following Italian Police raids. I had also met some people that belonged to the Camorra during a previous reportage for the Sunday Times Magazine on cigarettes smugglers. It was towards the end of the seventies.

Naples 1983: Raffaele Renini killed in front of a bar in Casavatore Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1983: Raffaele Renini killed in front of a bar in Casavatore
Photo © Francesco Cito

CBK: Did you ever feel in danger?
Not more than in Afghanistan and Lebanon. There were threats. But I was more afraid that they would take my cameras rather than shoot me.

Camorra 1984: Boss Giovanni Pandico in court Photo © Francesco Cito

Camorra 1984: Boss Giovanni Pandico in court
Photo © Francesco Cito

CBK: We often hear about ‘a code of honor’ inside organized crime. Is it true?
That was pertinent to the older Mafia structures. Nowadays, it’s just plain criminals. They have no ethics, they’re always high on cocaine and they’re after quick, easy money. In the seventies and eighties there were precise rules. If you pissed somebody off, you would be scarred in the face with a knife. Now, they randomly shoot in the bunch. This is in regard to Camorra. The Sicilian and Calabrese mafia have different rules, but they are also changing.

Naples 1983: Special Police Force The Hawks arrest 2 criminals Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1983: Special Police Force The Hawks arrest 2 criminals
Photo © Francesco Cito

CBK: The Camorra was practically unknown in the US until Saviano’s book ‘Gomorra’ and the subsequent film came out. Is their depiction accurate?
The Camorra has existed since 1800. It started with la Mano Nera¹, the Black Hand, imported into the US by the Italian immigration. When Lucky Luciano was extradited to Italy, he settled in Naples. A Camorra boss, Alfredo Maisto², publicly slapped him across the face at the horse races in Agnano to show him who was in command. In those days the Camorristi were called ‘Guappi’.

Naples 1990: Special Police force The Hawks prepare for a raid  Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1990: Special Police force The Hawks prepare for a raid
Photo © Francesco Cito

Saviano’s book, Gomorra, is a heavy piece of pulp fiction good to make a movie from. There is nothing new being told in the book, nothing that was not published by the local papers. There are no names, or facts that were unknown, no revelations. It’s highly fictionalized, just like the film. The reality of the Camorra is a lot less glamorous.

Naples 1983: Police raids house Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1983: Police raids house
Photo © Francesco Cito

CBK: The war on the Camorra is still raging. Any hope of winning?
Hardly. All Mafias are, more and more, hiding behind legal businesses. They’re hard to detect. Their wealth is immense. Their infiltration into the government is deep. A lot of petty, young criminals are called ‘mafiosi’, but they’re not. They’re just small time local gangs.

Naples 1983: Camorra members after guilty verdict going to Poggioreale Prison Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1983: Camorra members after guilty verdict going to Poggioreale Prison
Photo © Francesco Cito

Camorra 1984: Camorra Boss Gianni Melluso Photo © Francesco Cito

Camorra 1984: Camorra Boss Gianni Melluso
Photo © Francesco Cito

Napoli 1984: Raffaele Cutolo nicknamed The Bible boss of the new Camorra Photo © Francesco Cito

Napoli 1984: Raffaele Cutolo nicknamed The Bible boss of the new Camorra
Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1985: The great indictment more than 800 people Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1985: The great indictment more than 800 people
Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1985: The mass Camorra indictment Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 1985: The mass Camorra indictment
Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples Scampia 1984: Horses being trained for illegal races Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples Scampia 1984: Horses being trained for illegal races
Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples Scampia 1985: Illegal horse races Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples Scampia 1985: Illegal horse races
Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 2006: Young criminal being questioned Photo © Francesco Cito

Naples 2006: Young criminal being questioned
Photo © Francesco Cito

1983 Naples: Salvatore Pennacchio killed in Secondigliano by rival gang  Photo © Francesco Cito

1983 Naples: Salvatore Pennacchio killed in Secondigliano by rival gang
Photo © Francesco Cito

1983 Naples: Salvatore Pennacchio killed in Secondigliano by rival gang  Photo © Francesco Cito

1983 Naples: Salvatore Pennacchio killed in Secondigliano by rival gang
Photo © Francesco Cito

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