“It is the mood of the beholder which gives the city of Zemrude its form. If you go by whistling, your nose atilt behind the whistle, you will know it from below: window sills, flapping curtains, fountains. If you walk along hanging your head, your nails dug into the palms of your hands, your gaze will be held on the ground, in the gutters, the manhole covers, the fish scales, wastepaper. You cannot say that one aspect of the city is truer than the other …” - Cities & Eyes 2, Invisible cities, Italo Calvino
Photos by Mihai Ciama, selected by Nikos Economopoulos
In the summer of 2017, I accepted the invitation of a friend to visit Albania.
A country that has a similar past with Romania's, a country which endured hard times in the Eastern communist block. I did not regret my decision at all.
The most visited part of Albania is its Ionian Sea Riviera, but since it tends to get crowded, we went a different route. Using a rental car, we embarked on a sinuous journey that took us from the seaside to the mountains for almost 2 weeks. We stopped in five cities along the way: Durres, Elbasan, Kukes, Korce, and of course Tirana.
I tried as much as possible to blend in with the Albanians. For most of the time I avoided the popular touristic attractions, choosing instead to walk the narrower streets and the smaller neighbourhoods, where I met the curious eyes of the locals.
Because of the language barrier we could barely understand each other, but this made things easier for me, as my most common mode of conversation was resorting to a smile, even when they invited me into their homes.
There are no staged photos whatsoever. These pictures do not show an objective image of Albania, but rather they are a subjective collection of moments, of fractured stories of everyday life, a record of purely unplanned intersections. Being in Albania gave me a strange, deja-vu feeling. With all the marks of the former communist regime surrounding me, I was often reminded of the post-revolution Romania in the nineties.
They say you can't get lost as long as you don't care where you are. Photographing in Albania was for me a spontaneous, continuous joy, a wonderful game played with light and shadows, with colour, with form, in a visual journey above anything else.
The Bulb Collective consists of photographers active in urban (and rural) photography with an expressive shift to include highly aesthetic and poetic images in their assignments.