by Gilles Roudière
Albania is terrific and fascinating.
Albania has a bewitching soul that cannot fail to haunt you; it exhales something mysterious, a sort of indescribable magic. The beating streams of a Mediterranean sunlight, the meeting with unlikely landscapes, the smoke from burning wild rubbish dumps rising up into the air, the whirls of dust in towns and the sandstorms along the coasts lend the land a specific atmosphere and a strong personality. A kind of chaos prevails in the country, from out of which seeps fantasism; Albanians are probably keener to follow traditional conventions than a modern legislation. Mutual aid, honour, respect and hospitality are finally the true driving forces of the nation, building up a strong common thread that connects people to each other and to their territory.
What mattered to me was my desire to capture my own intimate experiences of the country, my inner-feelings, steering clear of Roland Barthes’ qualified “studium”. More than any classical documentary issue it is Albania as a photographic theatre with its inhabitants performing in their daily scenery that my images intend to reveal.
Group Project: ALBANIA
What happens in Albania? The former closed Communist country with its long undiscovered coastline and spectacular Alpine interior retains an air of mystery in the midst of familiar old Europe. Albania is the close neighbour of Italy and Greece but, despite the fall of the Iron Curtain 20 years ago, has kept its secrets from us for too long.
This exhibition combines the work of six photographers based in Berlin, who for three years have been regularly exploring Europe’s least-known nation. They have immersed themselves in its unique and complex society successively moulded by the long period of Ottoman rule, the autocratic grip of communism and today by the excitement of emerging as a new democracy into modern Europe.
The idea of the project was to create a picture diary of a nation familiar by name but whose lifestyle, whose people and whose dreams are only slowly revealing themselves. Each of the photographers has followed his own unique approach to tell an unfolding story of discovery through images and other media.
This long-term project could never produce a straightforward narrative or even a journalistic documentation of a place as intriguing as Albania. Instead we offer six essays that build into a mosaic to capture what we found in a land just a short way away, but far from familiar.