What a photograph is and what its effects are not easy to say. Especially when produced with the intention of discovering, illustrating and then rediscovering in a postcard, tourist advertising or object-memory form a cultural-historical reality such as Albania where Francesco Tagliarini found himself operating in the turbulent years between the 1939 and the 1943, which saw the Italian occupation of the country.
Even a very early voyage among the thousands of images commissioned by Tagliarini along his editorial activity, such as the one I propose here, is far more enigmatic and dialectical than the apparent, candid documentary immediacy with which each photo and picture postcard would like to fix, once per all, the most intrinsic geoanthropic traits of Albania.
The photos, I would immediately like to recall recalling just a scientific literature that from Walter Benjamin reaches Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag up to David Freedberg, are paper or digital media of which, however, we are immediately invited to incorporate all their constructive and phenomenological scope, that is the sample of ideas, of visual (and therefore moral, political, ethical) conceptions that in these supports have found acceptance, frameworks, meetings, impressions in turn conditioned by deeper ideological, political and cultural movements.
These are supports made to travel in space and time (even more when you think and produce to become illustrations of articles, postcards, souvenirs, travel trophies) and have a very high value in the address book. The purchase, exhibition, sending of photos and postcards, observes Duccio Canestrini in his beautiful anthropological essay on travel trophies, recall and certify the transfer, the relationship and the understanding between sender and recipient on the visited place (l 'Albania in this case); these are proof par excellence of having been there, as Clifford Geertz would say, after all acclaimed by the often superimposed sentences: "A memory from ...", "Souvenir of ...", "Greetings from ...", in our case Urime të përzemerta, "Best wishes" from an Albania represented here by the greeting of a child in strictly traditional clothes.
These photos and postcards are thus entrusted with themes, perspectives, looks, representations, conceptions, complaints, cultural policies that make them objects that connect different worlds; the search for an Albanian pose becomes a photo in turn useful to instruct, to train and to inform, to represent, to create attractions, in the specific case those of the Albanian neocolonia for the growing tourism of fascist Italy.
The images produced in the journalistic, documentary, promotional activity carried out by Fransceco Tagliarini must therefore be understood starting from the specific logic of institutional clients: that Ministry of popular culture for which Tagliarini was appointed secretary and assigned to the Presidency of the Council of Albania and the Directorate General for Press, Propaganda and Tourism, in Tirana, as a consultant for Albanian tourism. They must be explained in their particular functionality aimed at creating, negotiating and sharing, between Albanians and Italians, a common imaginary, a repertoire of recognizable and understandable images on both sides and so useful for the growth of new shores of knowledge, of political relations, tourist, business. So, a bit like Roman Jakobson already invited to do for the study of verbal language and Jean Luc Nancy for the book, the images of the Tagliarini collection will be included in their addresses, in their representative and communicative strategies, in the mechanisms of their production ( that is in the senders or authors), in the distribution (in the channels), in the fruition (that is in the recipients), in the reception (that is in the interpreters) as well as in the poetics, in the subjects, in the themes, in the internal rhetorics and in the symbolisms that they conveyed and continue to convey, focusing on the construction of a certain overall image of the Albanian reality, and not on another.
Having said this, in the hope that a profound historical-anthropological study of the fund, already well established at the archival level by Rovena Sakja, can really be undertaken, in the short time of this report I will only review the "types" and the "recurring motifs" in the imagery born of Tagliarini's experience, stimulating possible anthropological problems. However obsolete and brief it may seem today the distinction between types and motifs - inaugurated in the twentieth century by the Finnish folklorist Antti Amatus Aarne and by the American ethnologist Stith Thompson to attempt a classification of the types of fairy tales and mythological motifs widespread in all societies of the world , from which the colossal six-volume Motif-Index - is in my opinion indispensable for having a first overview of the objects and subjects placed on the visual field by the team of photographers and painters (including Luigi Piffero and Fadil Pllumi) to whom Tagliarini entrusted the construction of Albania suitable for tourism at that time, its public, its expectations.
- I paesaggi, first of all, they constitute a guiding motive. There are several photos and watercolors aimed at reproducing natural landscapes of the Albanian territory, the conformation of the rocks, the vegetations such as marine, lake, rural, woodland and, in particular, mountain environments. Generally speaking these are images aimed at showing the healthiness of the environments, of the air, of the waters as a positive precipitate of a wildness, of an uncontaminated and genuine harmony that one wants to attribute to the nearby Albanian East and its folkloric societies: for example when these women of Peshtan are associated with the bottom of the mountains surrounding the lake of Ohri, near Pogradec, or when one insists on the relationship between the houses of Krujë and the rocky background of the mountain.
Moreover, the mountain ones remain scenarios that tourist photography sought by Tagliarini finds and shares with an internal representation in the Albanian context and still very much practiced in the political-literary sphere: that is, the one that associates and ends up linking and identifying Albania and its whole history to its impervious mountain borders.
That of the mountain in the experience of Tagliarini becomes a figure that knew well how to connect the Italian tourist and excursionistic vocations, moreover explained by the volume Mountains of Albania by Piero Ghiglione published for Distaptur in 1941, to that game of looks that, since Nineteenth century, he had seen eminent Anglo-American scholars (from Mary Edhit Durham to Margaret Hasluck up to Carlenton Coon and Paul Stahl) insist on the mountainous exoticism of Albania and of the Albanians who, at the same time, in a vast literature - from Naim Frashëri to Gjergi Fishta, from Migjeni to Gaspër Pali, from Ernest Koliqi and Musine Kokalari to Kuteli and today in Kadare - have made the mountains a high symbol of albanism, both in its values aimed at consolidating the nation, as well as in those of cold political isolationism for which, according to Ylljet Aliçka in Slogans, the mountains became for Enver Hoxha a place on which to give his name, in characters visible even from space, as the sacred and insurmountable boundary of the former socialist republic.
In addition to the mountains, Tagliarini's photo-postcards often show rivers, streams crossed by bridges (for example in the views of Lezhë, Scutari and Berat).
Rivers and bridges, also here, are natural and architectural elements that recall the union: often the Adriatic has been thought of as a river and there are those who, in addition to that of the Strait of Messina, had thought of a bridge of 120 kilometers between Ancona and Zara: the architect Giorgio De Romanis in a project actually deposited and presented in the 2004 at the University of Marche.
Like mountains, rivers and bridges we find them as central elements in the Albanian narrative, from the popular to the cultured one, which has grasped all the ambivalences, the contradictory ambitions of the bridges that they would expect to unite and, for that very reason, separate banks that nature has divided. Boundaries of new openings bridges attempt gaps between harsh socio-cultural frontiers through which new powers, interests and invasions pass, according to a logic well expressed by a literary vein that from the popular legends such as those notes of Arta and Rozafa leads to the tales of Migjeni, Koliqi up to Kadare that, in the wake of the great Andric, in Il ponte a tre archi deepensche the diabolical logic of the Albanian bridges, as in Kasëm Trebeshina which in some ways centers the intrinsic foreignness of each bridge:
And when I die, there on the bridge
the endless spirit wanders!
The two shores do not give me burial today,
because they have no grave for my nostalgia!
At other times the landscapes are urban and residential spaces; neighborhoods, streets, squares, blocks of flats like those of Gjirokastra, Vlora, Krujë, Scutari.
As also numerous are the images dedicated to fortifications, towers, castles, fortresses, for example in Krujë, Berat, Argirocastro.
Once again we find Tagliarini redirecting to the Italian tourist public, through his photographers, an imaginary that finds very close correspondences with that, from the nineteenth century up to today, matured in Albania within a panorama as literary as political, that of the reference to the fortress Illyrian, to the entrenchment if not to national isolation, ideological and strategic schemes inspired by the alleged primitive kingdom-fortress of Albania founded by the Illyrians, has made fundamental symbols of albanism.
Here it is sufficient to recall the references to Illyrian-Albanian nationality which are mutually advanced on the external front by European intellectuals (from Byron to Gustav Mayer, from Wadham Peackock to George Scriven) as well as internally by scholars such as Kostandin Çekrezi, Eqrem Çabej, Aleks Buda as the Ismail Qemal himself, and in parallel with a national literature based on the conception of Albania-Keshtjellë, to quote Kadare, resistant, strong, fortified since the time of the idealized Illyrians as the first founders of national Albania.
At other times the images portray exteriors, interiors, furnishings of mosques, churches, shrines and temples bektashiti. For example, the Korçë mosque in Tirana, the Catholic and Orthodox church in Tirana, the Elbasan mosque, the famous shrine of St. Naum. These are photos that move the lens from the territorial and architectural spaces to the sociality that takes place there; for example this one showing the objects of worship on the tomb of St. Naum or the spiritual leader bektashita in a temple in Tirana.
- Very interesting are the photos dedicated to this public places and, in particular, squares that become places of worship for which devotional and prayer practices are set, such as those on their knees, common to Islam and Christianity, which are mixed in this square in front of the Catholic church of a village in Malësia and madhe. There are many images dedicated to the aggregation spaces of peasant festivals, to traditional music and dances like this in Kosovo.
Many images are then dedicated to the rituality of passage, the anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep would call it, above all to the rites of birth, matrimony, then to the family portraits that exhibit the spouses and their offspring according to an exaltation of the reproduced paternity, of the family, of consanguinity and descent on which, on the other hand, fascist propaganda so much insisted also in Italy. On death and funeral rites the Tagliarini fund does not offer photographic poses such as, instead, we find many in the Marubi atelier in Scutari. The exception is the very interesting series dedicated to war cemeteries which host the graves of Italian soldiers of the Siena Division who died in the Second World War.
Although they lack detailed information, which is common to the entire Tagliarini collection, these photos show the burial methods, improvised tombstones, the commemorative use of guns and helmets that belonged to soldiers, and the presence of inscriptions that reaffirm the meaning patriotic of death: "The fatherland is a faith", "To his foot soldiers who opened the way to victory".
Among the photos focused on social relations many are those that take up places of meeting: cafes, bars, taverns, taverns, and groups of men who used to meet there.
Like, also, the photos that reflect the places of commerce, shops, artisan shops, street vendors and, above all, fairs and markets of fish, wheat, fruit and vegetables such as oil, bread, cheese, cattle , of fabrics and clothing, of utensils and containers, of foodstuffs. For example the market of Scutari, of Tirana, of Elbasan, of Berat, of Korçë with two small street vendors.
Business areas for which bargaining, buying and selling, promotion, the pleasantries that take place as if to capture the most dynamic aspects of an economy are fixed, but which, despite the fact that in Albania at that time there were the first signs of the industry, is presented as essentially archaic, artisan, agro-pastoral but of a promising archaic, euphoric, dynamic, futuristic, close to the stereotypes of the peasant industry and the agrarian politics so much beaten by Mussolini also in Italy and on which so much has been written.
- The large number of images related to the production, work, arts and crafts of the agro-pastoral folk society is therefore linked to the economic sphere. A dense series of photos then reproduce scenes of agricultural work such as plowing, olive harvest and oil production, fishing, weaving, fabric dyeing, craft practices related to traditional spheres of production. Among these we see, for example, the processing of nets in Lezhë, sowing and maize and sturgeon fishing in Scutari, weaving in Prizren, harvesting wheat in Kavajë, preparing kadaif, producing timber in the north.
- Another central reason is that dedicated to the language of gestures, to proxemics, to greetings, to hugs, to gestures that proclaim kinship, domestic, comparative, friendship, neighborhood, various meeting opportunities. We see this in some examples relating to Gjirokaster, Scutari and Tirana. Among these is the series dedicated to groups of children, boys and girls taken up in traditional costume and within their rural context, exhibited as indices of continuity, prosperity, and an overall vitality of Albanian rural society. These photos concern all the areas of the country as if they wanted to certify to the Italian tourist the high value also given by the traditional Albanian society to youth, as well as fascism; a youthful aspect also set by the photographer Giuseppe Massani who, in the same years, in a production that reflects types and motifs in many respects similar to those sought by Tagliarini, took young Albanians in a bathing-suit costume during the vaccination or the colonies organized for them from the Italian governorate.
- Reason in its own right, comunquesia transversal to many of those already identified here, is the one dedicated to the photographic shooting of traditional male and especially female and childish costumes. A reason that nevertheless serves at the same time to show the social use of the body, through postures, looks, positions that exhibit social dimensions, ranks, roles, family status.
This strand still shrinks and gives rise to a very large number of busts and close-ups, especially of children and women photographed in traditional costume and coming from the most diverse Albanian areas.
Beyond the ethnographic information that gives us the features of the costumes and jewels worn, these portraits present a particularly important reason from the visual anthropological point of view because, at a first examination that certainly deserves future comparative studies, they tend to apply to Albanian subjects portraits of gestural stereotypes, framing, backgrounds, rhetoric of the body (slenderness, skin glow, linearity, thinness and smile in women; candor, fullness, strength in children) that in many respects similar to those present in publications, in fashion photography, in the canons of child and female beauty spread in Italy in the same period through magazines such as, for example, Tempo, Dea, La donna Modale, Fantasie d'Italia, La piccola italiana, Fashion, Italian illustration. Stereotypes that in turn are affected by the growing Italian cinematographic divism of the 1930s and, ultimately, by the Hollywood divinity on which Nunzia Messina dwelled well in the volume Women of fascism.
At the end of this very fast and, for that very reason, the incomplete overview, we see emerging on the surface types and motifs that certainly Tagliarini's photographers do not invent from scratch but continue and resume in turn from a photographic imagery in Albania already consolidated by a long host of photographic operators mostly from various European countries, which the scholar Robert Elsie has well compared also on his website: from Turkish-Ottoman photographers to photos of Baron Alexandre Degrand, from Erich Liebert's collections on the north Albania to those of Hugo Grothe on Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, to reach the photographs of the American scholar Carleton Coon, those of Marubi and Reimer Shulz in the thirties, and then of Giuseppe Massani, Erich Von Luckwald and Lutz Koch in the 1940s . This is to mention only the main photographers who have experimented with Albania. Beyond these, certain concordances with others, numerous archives produced in Albania since the end of the nineteenth century, the Tagliarini fund reveals, in my opinion, its historical and anthropological originality in the coordinates for which it was conceived and cut: the coordinates of an Italy that during fascism, from the '39 to the 42, occupies Albania annexing it to its crown and incorporating it in the logic of a colonialism that aimed at the same time to taste and exalt its differences where these were compatible with those of the mother homeland, and to tame or not to frame those that were recognized as components of an East that was too far away, antithetical, contrary, irredeemable. Used in the magazine Drini or as postcards, Tagliarini's imagery therefore served as a device to present to the Italian public a reassuring Orient, attractive for its landscapes, for its mountain excursions, for rivers and for the seas, for its architecture Turkish, for its vital agro-pastoral society, for its infants and for its young people, for its hospitality, for its feminine beauties, for its customs: even if, then, in the 1941, on the occasion of its first visit to Albania the nineteen-year-old Vasil Laçi, dressed in the traditional national construct and shouting "Long live Albania! Down with fascism! ”He shot at the king of Italy Vittorio Emanuele III in an attempt to kill him, and for this he was shot publicly ten days after the attack. But these are things kept well away from the Albanian paradise on which tourism aimed.
The value of Tagliarini's photos, in conclusion, is certainly the ethnographic one which documents in detail the socio-cultural reality of that time; but it is also the one that testifies to the exercise of a tourist look matured within the colonial, cultural and ministerial programs of Italy as of Albania and Mussolini. It is, therefore, the testimony of a Albanian tourist sui generis, built through a negotiation of images, stereotypes, series, symbols (from mountains to popular customs, from bridges to the exaltation of the lineage) that had to be included, accepted , shared and therefore enjoyed, in a particular horizon of exoticism and hedonism between this and the other side of the Adriatic. Thanks.
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