Archive, Exhibitions

Dynasty Marubi – A hundred years of Albanian studio photography

Main image: Kel Marubi with his wife in the studio, no date, silver gelatine dry process on glass. All images © Kel Marubi, courtesy Marubi National Museum of Photography, Shkodër

A selection of photos from the archive of the Albanian photo studio Marubi, from 1856 to 1959, showcasing three generations of photographers made studio portraits of a wide variety of people, ranging from the urban bourgeoisie, shepherds, the Ottoman emperor and King Zog, to criminals and famous actors and painters, are about to go on show at Foam, Amsterdam.

Around 1850, not too long after the invention of photography, the Italian Pietro Marubi arrived in Shkodër, the northern part of what is now Albania.

There he started the first photography studio in the region, using the wet plate process.

After Pietro’s death, his assistant, a young man named Kel, adopted the same surname as a tribute to him. He ran the studio himself and eventually passed it on to his son Gegë.

© Marubi National Museum of Photography, Shkodër

The extensive collection of 150.000 glass negatives is about to be exhibited for the first time.

The archive is notable from a historical, sociological, cultural and anthropological, point of view, as well as being simply artistic.

Events from the turbulent history of Albania – from Ottoman times to the communist period, social rituals, folkloric costumes and sociologically interesting group portraits can all be found in the collection.

The exhibition is an introduction to the rich photographic history of an isolated European country that is often overlooked.

The exhibition, titled Dynasty Marubi – A hundred years of Albanian studio photography is part of a series of exhibitions about photo studios that Foam, the photography gallery in Amsterdam, has presented in recent years, including Portraits from Isfahan, Foto Galatasaray – Maryam Sahinyan’s Photo Studio and Disfarmer – The Vintage Prints.

This reflects Foam’s growing interest over the past twenty years in vernacular photography and in its value both as social history and as art.

This exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Marubi National Museum of Photography in Shkodër, Albania. It will open on Thursday 15 September. More information here.