After 13 years of living in London, I decided to return to my home—Sicily—to work on a personal project. I chose to photograph the destructive effect that the presence of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, has had on this beautiful island.

Through my work on this project, I discovered a region pervaded by lawlessness and disfigured by a system that is heavily controlled by the underworld.

The reality is far from the glamorous image of gangsters portrayed by Hollywood stars—this world is bleak, seedy, and haunting. Cosa Nostra has infiltrated local administrations and served itself by influencing politics and the economy. It rules undisturbed throughout the territory.

In this series, I tried to capture Sicily’s immobility in an effort to identify why I was pushed to move abroad 20 years ago. I photographed the architecture, people, and landscape or order to convey Sicily’s problematic entanglement with the mob and the suffocating hold that Cosa Nostra has over the island.

“Terra Nostra” is ultimately a labor of love about a land I strongly identify with and feel attached to. Sicily is tormented by a traumatic past and challenged by a difficult present—my hope is that the region’s bright side will reclaim ownership of the land and its people.

—Mimi Mollica

Editors’ note: “Terra Nostra” is the outcome of 7 years of work. Mollica is raising money in a crowd-funding campaign to help him transform the book into a beautiful publication—there’s still time to help out!