Remembering the Marubis – A brief look back at Albania’s most influential photographers
by - Geralda Cela

The Marubi legacy began in 1856, two decades after photography had been invented with Pietro Marubi, a photographer and painter who emigrated from Piacenza (Italy) to Shkodër (North Albania). There he established a photo studio with the equipment he had bought over from Italy and began documenting what would be a 100 year legacy of Albania and its people –using the then widely popular wet-plate method.

It’s reported that his gardeners’ son – Kel Kodheli (1870 – 1940) took to the art and became Pietro’s assistant. Kel furthered the techniques taught to him by Pietro through retouching negatives and also began photographing outside of the studio with more advanced cameras. And together they unknowingly formed a collection of images that would hold immeasurable historical, sociological and anthropological value in helping many understand Albania – where very little is visually known about its chaotic history.

Following Pietro’s death, Kel took Pietro’s surname as a sign of respect to his teacher and ran the studio himself – eventually passing it onto his son Gegë Marubi (1907– 1984) the third and final generation of the Muarbi photographers. Gegë spearheaded the use of celluloid instead of the glass plates in what was known as the studios most successful period, however unfortunately, Gegë didn’t take any pictures during the communist dictatorship.

In the 1970s Gegë donated the studios collection which was around 150,000 glass negatives to the Directorate of General Archives and spent the rest of his life working to preserve them until his death in 1984.

Today, this collection is harboured at the Marubi National Museum Of Photography, which opened in 2016 in Shkodër. The Museum building is designed by Dutch studio Casanova+Hernandez Architects and is based on camera apertures made up of panes of transparent and translucent glass.

The collection includes the first-ever photograph taken in Albania by Pietro dating back to 1858-1859 and along with everything from facinating street photography, traditional clothing, cultural/social rituals and portraits of powerful figures throughout Albania’s turbulent history stretching from the Ottoman empire right through to the communist period.

Here are some of those images from the collection we’ve managed to find online.

‘Beggar’ by Pietro Marubi
By Kel Marubi – Barber shop
Kel Marubi and his wife in the studio

This image is stated as Kel Marubi and his son Rrok, but this might be Gege as Kel had a brother called Rrok.