The history of the Marubi studio began around 1850 when the Italian Pietro Marubbi, a Garibaldian who fought against the invaders, escaped from Italy. At first he went to Turkey…
The history of the Marubi studio began around 1850 when the Italian Pietro Marubbi, a Garibaldian who fought against the invaders, escaped from Italy. At first he went to Turkey and later to Greece, but in none of these places he succeeded in obtaining political asylum because he was thought to be involved in the murder of the then mayor of Piacenza. In 1856 he arrived in Shkodra, the heart of the Albanian culture characterized by a lively and international spirit. Pietro introduced himself as a painter, an architect and later began working as a photographer with the camera he had brought with him from Italy, using the wet collodion wet plate process. Pietro Marubbi became Pjetër Marubi and in the same year he founded the first photo studio in Albania and probably the first in all the Balkans.
Pjetër’s studio worked without distinction with all social classes. The first photo was shot in 1858, the portrait of the anti-Ottoman fighter Hamza Kazazi. His images show a unique cross-section of Albania of the time. In addition to portraits, Pjetër would shoot photojournalist services for foreign magazines, including the L’illustrazione Italiana. At that time according to the orders of the Ottoman empire, the woman could not be shown in photographs, but Pjetër dared to break the taboos of the time also photographing the Muslim woman.
Pjetër married Marietta, a midwife born in Gorizia, twenty years older than him. Having no heirs, he artistically adopts the sons of his servants: Mati and Mikel Kodheli. In 1880 he sent Mati to Trieste to study at the prestigious studio of Sebastianutti and Benque, but once he returned to Albania he died of pneumonia. Later he sends Mikel to undertake the same itinerary. On the death of the master, Kel changes his surname to Marubi and takes responsibility for the studio. He decides to buy a new studio, today only a few meters from the National Museum of Marubi Photography, and renames it Dritëshkroja, “Written with the light”.
Together with more sophisticated cameras, Kel introduces techniques like special effects, the retouching of negatives and growing up in an age of war he is directed towards another type of photo. He would fight because the Albanian language could have the same dignity as the Turkish and in 1909, he obtained permission from the Pasha of Shkodra to publish the bilingual newspaper Zeri i Shkodrës (The voice of Shkodra). Kel immortalizes the most important figures and moments, from Luigj Gurakuqi to Gjergj Fishta (fathers of the Independence in 1912), the Jesuits, the Franciscans, the city elites, but also the peasants and mountain dwellers, all in their traditional costumes.
With the introduction of the dry slabs of silver bromide gelatin, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was possible to give higher quality to the pictures. The Marubi studio became one of the most important studies for professional photography and negative development. The third generation of the study is represented by Kel’s son, Gegë. He went to Paris, where he graduated in the studio of the Lumière Brothers, the first School of Photo and Cinematography in the world. He applied the most current approaches, using infrared rays, sunburn and embossed photos. In the ’70s, Gegë donated the study collection, about 150,000 glass negatives, to the Directorate of the General Archives. He dedicated the rest of his life to work on their conservation and died in 1984. The archive is now housed at the National Museum of Marubi Photography, a building designed by the Dutch studio Casanova and Hernandez Architects.
The collection, captured by three generations of photographers from 1856 to 1959, offers an ensemble that ranges from the Ottoman period to communism and includes social rituals, traditional costumes, portraits from the urban bourgeoisie, peasants, mountaineers and famous figures of history. The large assemblage of 150,000 glass negatives is interesting from a historical, sociological, cultural, anthropological and artistic point of view. The exhibition at the National Museum of Marubi Photography is an introduction to the rich photographic history of an isolated, often neglected European country. In addition to the photographs during your visit to the museum, you will also find documents, cartographic materials and period objects from the Marciana Library, the Correr Museum and private collections.
National Museum of Marubi Photography:
Address: Rruga Kol Idromeno, 32 (historical center) Shkodër, Albania
Timetable: Mon – Sun 09:00-17: 00
Admission: 700 lek
It’s possible to view an archive of the photos also on: Virtual Museum.
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