In Albania the art of photography came only 17 years later after its birth in the 1839. The Italian Pietro Marubi exported the European tradition of photography to one of the most developed areas of 19th-century Albania: Scutari.
in 1856 Marubi opened the first Albanian photographic studio, for this reason it had considerable fame throughout the Balkan peninsula. Pietro Marubi was a Garibaldian, escaped from Piacenza for political reasons. At first he went to Turkey, later to Greece and finally to Albania, to be precise to Vlore. In none of these places did he succeed in obtaining political asylum because he was implicated in the murder of the then mayor of Piacenza.
In the 1856 he came to Shkodër, where he found refuge from his persecutors, and here he began to work as a photographer. In the same year he opened the photographic studio called "Driteshkronje", which translated from Greek means photography, fotos-drite and grafos-shkronje.
Pietro Marubi was also an excellent sculptor, architect, painter but his passion remained photography.
It seems that the photo of the warrior Hamza Kazazi, dated 1858, is the first Albanian photo but the testimonies of the Marubi descendants make it clear that the first traces of Albanian photography date back to 1856. According to their documents, the first photo is of that year, but the image was deleted during work by the photographer, or it does not exist because the methods of that time required the use of a glass for several negatives. Officially the date of the beginning of Albanian photographic art is the 1858 year, with the photo of Hamza Kazazi.
Pietro Marubi was called "the magician" who set fire to materials and liquids and then give you a sheet often where you were.
His atelier specialized in photo shoots not only for private individuals (portraits of people or families), but over the years' 70 Pietro (meanwhile Pjetër) performed reporter services for the Italian magazine 'Italian Illustration' in Scutari's vilajet .
The new Marubi family hired a young man from Scutari whose name was Kel Kodheli to help and sometimes he also worked in the photo studio. Kel began to take care of photographs as well as housework.
Marubi photographs were spoken in all regions of Albania. They were the favorite photographers of all social classes.
One of Scutari's oldest photographers talks about the wonderful art. According to Angjelin Nenshatit, a student of Pietro Marubi, people often had to be tied in the chair to stand upright when fixing their image, and it was even worse if they were children.
The tradition, the landscapes, the photos of the aristocracy, the royal court, the folk clothes and the whole Albanian life were fixed in the celluloid of Marubi.
In the Scutari of that time, according to the orders of the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian woman could not show herself in photos, but Pietro Marubi dared to break the taboos of the time and managed to photograph even the Muslim woman. This photo is also the most particular and dear one of Pietro Marubi, the photo of a Muslim girl who has just removed the veil. Many scholars value it not only for its freshness, but also for the virgin and fragile beauty that Albania represents.
Kel dei Marubi continued the Albanian photographic tradition. The photograph becomes proper of the Albanians even if the professionalism inherited from the Italian Pietro Marubi.
Pietro Marubi died in 1903 and bequeathed to Kel not only photography but also his surname.
Kel grew up in an age of war, and then turned to another type of photo. He started photographing all social classes. He also photographed beggars, one of whom was Krajl Nikolla.
King Zogu interned him, but he was in any case the most trusted in fixing historical moments that had to remain alive, thick leaves in black and white to be remembered over time.
At the beginning of 900 the method of preparation of the negative with colodium was replaced with dry plates of silver bromide gelatin. These methods gave greater quality to photography and the Driteshkronja studio also hosted foreigners. The Marubi studio was a favorite of all the Balkans for professional photography and negative development.
In the Marubi family manuscripts there are photographs of interest to all photographers. According to the manuscripts there would also be photos of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), but these cannot be found in the photo library. Marubi's fame had no boundaries. The Ulqinake, the Albanians who lived in Montenegro, were electrified by Kel Marubi's photo. The Albanian tradition outside Albania was also set in the photo. The landscapes, the people, all from Albanian to Ulqin, stopped the breath in the Marubi photos.
The third generation is represented by Gegë, son of Kel, who in the years 20 went to Paris where he graduated in the study of the Lumiere Brothers, at the first "School of Photo and Cinematography" in the world. He applied the most up-to-date techniques of this art, used infrared rays, solarization and photo in relief.
In the 1936 Gegë won the gold medal in the panair of Bari, and in the 1938 the same award in Thessaloniki. Gega Marubi lived up to the 1984 and the memories are even more recent. The Marubi signature photos are around 180 thousand, and everything was seized by the dictatorship towards the 1970. The media of the time transmitted the news in which the Marubi family handed the photo library to the state to use it as national wealth.
The testimonies reveal the opposite to us. In the 1970 a Scutari poet ordered by the Popular Party forced Gege Marubi to deliver the photo library by illegally signing a sheet in which he gave the Communist government a work by 150anni.
Meanwhile, professionals discuss the methods of preserving 180mila negatives. Photographers are in doubt between the digital method and the celluloid method. Many people believe that digital preservation will prolong the life of these photos, which not only represent Albania over the centuries but also life, history, culture etc.
The heirs of the Marubi family continue to live in Scutari even though it is said that the Marubi dynasty ended with the death of Gege Marubi.
Never before have Marubi photographers been valued by the Albanians in the right way. The French and Italians, on the other hand, have organized various exhibitions on the beauty of this magnificent Albanian art. The Albanians were enough for a few photographic album productions and few exhibitions. The Marubi sound library is recognized as a cultural asset of extraordinary importance, it is also an irreplaceable source for the knowledge of a century of history and culture of not only Albanian society.
In addition to the main nucleus consisting of the photos of the Marubi collection, the exhibition is enriched with documents, cartographic material and objects of use of the time from the Marciana Library, the Correr Museum and private collections.
For some, the Marubi were simple photographers, others think that the Marubi have valued foreigners more. What matters is that over a century and a half the Marubi have been able to create a magnificent art !!
Read all about the Marubi National Photography Museum
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