Today we have another scan of a photobook published in socialist Albania, in the period immediately following the height of the country’s Cultural and Ideological Revolution: Poem for the Albanian Woman, by Llazar Siliqi and Petrit Kumi . The book, published by General Council of the Women’s Union of Albania, features a text by poet Llazar Siliqi and photographs–in both color and black and white–by well-known photographer Petrit Kumi. (I have unfortunately only been able to find an Englishlanguage copy of the photobook, which is perhaps fitting considering these publications were primarily created for foreign export, as external-facing propaganda about the country’s advances.)
The photobook is a key example of Albania’s visual presentation of the emancipation of women under socialism, and features a wealth of images showing Albanian women painting, working in factories, tending to children, training in the military, and reading. Some images emphasize the sacrifices of female partisans who died liberating the nation from fascist occupation, while others depict Albania’s links to the global struggle for women’s emancipation in the socialist world. (A photo of Albanian Dictator Enver Hoxha wih a group of Chinese women is one of my favorites.)
Today’s post is a full scan of Albanian photographer Niko Xhufka’s album Ritme të Jetës Shqiptare [Rhythms of Albanian Life], published in 1976. Xhufka was one of the finest photographers working in socialist Albania, and his works evidence the originality and aesthetic force of Albanian documentary and socialist realist photography during the socialist years.
Most studies of photography as it has developed in Albania have focused either on earlier phtographers, such as the Marubis, or else have treated socialist photography in the country as little more than a means of propaganda. Xhufka’s images are striking because they are so obviously ‘artistic’–richly indebted to and conscious of a tradition of avant-garde, realist, and socialist realist photography–even as their ideological content is plainly legible. It is truly impressive to survey this collection of works and see Xhufka shift effortlessly between dynamic, abstract compositons that recall Russian avant-garde photography; clear and legible compositions emphasizing the narrative clarity of socialst realism; and sweeping aerial landscape panoramas.
While the entire album is a treasure, my favorite image is certainly a pair of juxtaposed photos entitled Zëvendësimi (Myzeqe) [Transplantation (Myzeqe)]. The first of the images shows a pair of storks nesting atop a twisted tree against a background of gray, flat fields. In the second image, the stork’s nest sits atop the skeletal structure of an electrical tower, and bottom edge of the photo is filled with stalks of grain or hay. The image succinctly pictures the ‘modernization’ of Albania carried out under socialism in a way that is both iconographically and compositionally striking.
* Several years ago, I first came across Xhufka’s work at propagandaphotos, and I am indebted to that blog for drawing my attention to a truly amazing artist. This interview with Xhufka offers important information on his work, process, career, and life.