The problem with moving every few years is that all our books have to be packed away. By the time we see them again months later we’re faced with the challenge of organising them on a new set of bookshelves in a new place. While working through the shelves in our current apartment I came across a book that I had never really noticed before. The book was a parting gift from friends in Albania. I suppose it went into a box almost immediately for shipping and then disappeared onto the shelves in our next place.
The book in question is by a German photographer, Jutta Benzenberg, who first came to Albania in 1991, in the aftermath of the fall of the communist regime. Benzenberg was married to Albanian writer, translator and activist Ardian Klosi who had moved to Germany after the end of communism. Images from that period were published in her first book, Albanisches Überleben (Albanian Survival) in 1993 with text by Klosi.
Klosi returned to Albania with Benzenberg in 1998 and in 2004 they published a second book together, Bukuri e rëndë — Sombre Beauty. This is the book on my shelves that I have been belatedly enjoying. A third work appeared in 2011, Ahead with the Past — Me të shkuarën, përpara, once more accompanied by Klosi’s writings.
Sadly, a fire in 2007 destroyed many of Benzenberg’s archive of images. Among those rescued were some damaged negatives which were printed in her series Phoenix.
More recently in 2012 her husband and collaborator Ardian Klosi, who had been suffering from depression, committed suicide. Yet it seems from her website that she is continuing her projects in Albania and there are some wonderful images to be found there. I’m hoping there will be more works to come.
I’m delighted to have discovered this book on my shelves. I have fond memories of Tirana and Albania, despite all the country’s challenges and frustrations. My big regret from my time there is that I had not yet reached that point where I valued photography for its own sake. I took plenty of photographs when I was there but did so mainly to illustrate my Tirana blog that I kept for the two years I lived in the city. Now I would take very different images.