Michel Setboun shows Albania during communist regime’s final throes

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 14, 2018 12:48

Michel Setboun shows Albania during communist regime’s final throes

TIRANA, July 12 – The Albanian Centre for Openness and Dialogue inaugurated on July 6 Algerian photographer’s Michel Setboun photo exhibition ‘The end. The start. Albania 1981-1991.”

At the COD space, Setboun brings for the first time 99 medium and large dimension images as emblems which hold, in their essence, memory and documentation, the evolution of a dramatic decade, filled with events of an extraordinary importance for Albanians’ history.

The substance of this exhibitions retrospectively pauses to inspect strong contrasts, vivid tabloids focusing on post-80s Albania with demagoguery, banners, communist parades, bunkers in every inch of the surface, cult objects transformed in theatre halls, coffeeshops, abandoned culture hubs, economic hardship, political and social oppression during the autocracy period, the figure of the Albanian woman, children and school students, among others.

For Setboun, the country’s beginning of the 1990’s was equally shocking – as the communist regime was coming undone – in his documentation of the Albanian exodus, the overcrowded migrant ships at the Durres port, the reception of Mother Teresa in her home country, the revitalization of religion, reopening of religious cults, discovery and first face-off with capitalism, the shocking situation in centers for children with disabilities, weddings and funerals, and many other aspects of Albanian life.

“I’ve seen many things, from the beginning to the end of two eras. It was very important for this exhibition to take place here, because I wanted to create an album for the family and for the passing of generations that are no longer here. I did not want to show something depressing, but something that shows hope and life. It is important for the new generation to understand where we come from. We forget too easily,” Setboun told local media. 

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Michel Setboun

Meanwhile, Setboun is considered to be one of Albania’s most important international photo-reporters, and one of the most persistent recorders of Albania’s history since 1981 and onwards, as he remains almost the only photographer who has captured with his camera, unlike anyone else and continuously during the last four decades, the political, cultural and social development of the country through and through.  

“Before coming to Albania, I’d heard of Ismail Kadare books, which made Albania look like a fairy-tale place. I was naturally interested in it. I came to Albania for the first time in 1981 and, if you don’t share my age, you cannot imagine how Albania looked then. I was a war photographer, while Albania was a country at peace. While staying at Hotel Tirana, because of the intense quiet, one could even hear chickens’ sounds…there was no cars, nothing. A completely different planet,” Setboun said.

His archive on Albania has thousands of pictures, each irreplaceable in its political and cultural significance.

Albanian public figures, such as art historian Zef Peci also spoke to local media about the importance these pictures hold in documenting the country’s history.

“I think it’s the exhibition of an important author, who brings photographers dipped in reality. Today, seeing these pictures, which were done in film 30 years ago and are not digital,  we see an Albania that no longer exists, some classes and people that no longer remain the same, or have been camouflaged. In this direction, it receives an extraordinary importance, because it speaks of a specific socio-historical context that no longer exists,” Peci told local media.

The exhibition will remain open to the public until September 2nd, while the entry will be free of charge.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 14, 2018 12:48