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ELTON GLLAVA : BULQIZË (Witty Kiwi, 2019)
talk and booksigning
with the author and Renata Ferri
The first time Elton Gllava comes to Bulqizë is 2013. Since then, he’s been back there for five years. When he remembers his first explorations of the place, Elton talks about fatigue, cold and incommunicability. After that, his eyes light up, he starts reporting anecdotes about resilience, small successes, affection and family.
Bulqizë is a small town not far from Tirana, Albania, known as the city of miners. After 1939, with the discovery of the presence of chromium and the opening of the first mines in 1948, the town became the third largest producer of this mineral in the whole world.
Since then, every morning, perhaps the most representative time of daily life in Bulqizë, with the first flashes of dawn the men, almost all miners, open their doors and face the only street of the town, resigned to defy the cold and the snow to perform their daily gestures, made of repetition, darkness, dust and obsession.
They drink a coffee all together, every morning in the same place. Then, accompanied by their usual mechanical movements, they sink into the mines.
Elton makes the courageous choice to use film for his work, despite the difficult lighting conditions inside the mines. It is also thanks to this choice that he manages to perfectly bring back to us the feeling of not being able to see, of suffocation, of anguish.
The entrances of light, failures of the camera irremediably imprinted on the film, which however are providential for the narrative, mark the rhythm of Elton’s story. Most photographers would have rejected those photographs, judging them “wrong”, but it is thanks to this kind of “mistakes” that the portrait of the little boy with the tattooed neck becomes a sacred icon, with its halo of light that catapults us into another context, far from the black, the chrome and the mines.
Elton’s work speaks of a community that, unfortunately or fortunately, was unconsciously born on a mountain that is a gold mine for the capitalist powers, and that will probably be exploited to the core in the next few years.
As the old man on the side of the road said, “If it wasn’t for the chrome, the crows would have sung here”. And it is precisely the crows that dictate the rhythm of the narrative while we scroll the pages. Despite their symbolism historically related to death, the crows accompany us in the discovery of Bulquizë, showing us, perhaps voiceless but deeply free in rising in flight, how many forms of resilience exist even in the most controversial corners of the world.
Elton Gllava: Bulqizë
120 pages, 27.8 x 20,8 cm, hardcover
edition: 500 copies
book your signed copy here
Elton Gllava will be at Micamera on Tuesday, February 4th at 7pm to talk about his own work together with Renata Ferri.
Elton Gllava was born in Vlorë, Albania, in 1974. When the communist regime collapsed and the borders opened, in 1992, he took the opportunity to experience another world and like thousands of Albanians chose to travel to Italy. His early years in Rome exposed him to some of the darker sides of Roman society through various occupations. However, in 2007, he decided to devote himself solely to photography. His photographic style is focused on social and author reportage, with a strong focus on intimate aspects.