“The Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta is one of the most powerful organized crime groups at a global level. Its colonization strategy is spreading all over the world. The ‘Ndrangheta started building its economic power in the 1970s and 1980s with the ransoms derived from multiple kidnappings they perpetrated.”

(Threat Assessment: Italian Organized Crime. Written by Europol, The Hague, June 2013)

From 1969 to 1998, 649 people were kidnapped by the ‘Ndrangheta in Italy: an average of 22 individuals per year. 117 of these cases occurred in the southern province of Reggio Calabria alone—a region that is known as a stronghold of organized crime. Eight of these people disappeared forever without leaving behind a single trace. This work tells their story.

Notes from my research. These are the eight people who were kidnapped and never found. © Domenico Fabio Itri, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2016.

A map of Calabria with the places where the eight were kidnapped. © Domenico Fabio Itri, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2016.

The circumstances behind these kidnappings are murky even for investigators. They proposed many hypotheses about the victims’ deaths, but the truth about these eight never came to light.

Long silences emanate from the heart of Aspromonte, the wild mountain massif that is known as the fortress of the ‘Ndrangheta; an inaccessible theater of cruel imprisonment. It’s possible that the kidnapped people were killed—or brought death upon themselves—because they weren’t willing to suffer through their imprisonment. In any case, the stories of these eight kidnappings all came to the same end: the victims disappeared, and their bodies will never be found.

—Domenico Fabio Itri

Editors’ Note: This project was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2016—don’t miss the work from all 50 of these outstanding, international talents!

“Scomparsi | Their Bodies Will Never Be Found” will likely be made into a book in 2017, so keep an eye out as the project develops.

If you are interested in seeing more work on this topic, consider one of these previous features: In Fourth Person, another series on the trials of Italy’s Calabria region; Gomorrah Girl, the award-winning project about a murder in Naples; and Apuan Carbonate, a more conceptual look at the degradation of the Italian landscape resulting from the pursuit of commodities like toothpaste.