They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. How much worth then would be found in Marubi’s collection of 400,000 hauntingly-beautiful photographs of Albanian life, spanning from 1850 until today?
The Marubi National Photography Museum, now conveniently located along the main promenade of the city of Shkodër, displays an extensive collection of negatives mounted on glass plates. The impeccably organized and classified collection is arranged according to the subject and year the photograph was taken – and includes the first-ever photograph taken of Albania, captured in 1858! The two-story building is home to the studio of famous photographer Pietro (Pjetër) Marubi, the one they say, who started it all.
When Pietro Marubi, an Italian political exile, opened his studio in Shkodër, he could not have predicted its enduring and successful 150-year history. Nor could he have foreseen the influence the institution would go on to have on Albanian photography, medicine, and architecture – as well as the impact it would have on the nation’s arts and culture in general. Following his death, one of his Albanian students inherited the studio, who in turn left it to his children, thus creating the famous Marubi dynasty, and the greatest photographic tradition in the country.
Pietro Marubi dedicated his 40-year career to taking thousands of photographs of significant national events, as well as portraying daily life in Albania. Many of them are portraits of ordinary Albanian citizens, but also include photos of influential figures such as Edith Durham. There’s an avant-garde twist to many of the pieces in this fascinating collection, as Marubi captured images of courtesans of the time, whose striking photos represent the first nudes taken in Albania. Marubi’s photographic subjects were often people-focused, capturing all strata of society, making his work particularly personal, human, and fascinating to view.
Marubi’s contribution to medicine is also well-documented. He was the first to take photographs of numerous symptoms of diseases which were relatively unknown at the time. Furthermore, the museum exhibits city plans, natural landscapes, traditional houses, as well as thousands of portraits of soldiers and commanders who fought in the First and Second World War.
To fully absorb and appreciate the most extensive and beautiful photographic collection in Albania, it’s best to dedicate a large part of your day to this wonderful exhibition!