Elton Gllava

Where The Crows Would Have Sung

“Had it not been for the chrome, here the crows would have sung” said the old man by the side of the dusty road. He spoke of Bulqizë, and of its people who work in the mines. Bulqizë is a small town in North-East Albania known as the town of the miners . Following the discovery of chrome there in 1939 and the opening of the first mines in 1948, Bulqizë has now become the world’s third largest producer of this mineral.The first time I went to Bulqizë was in 2013. I knew nothing about this place. My first impact with this strange town was overwhelming. A first encounter that took me back in time. The grey buildings of the main street outlined a town which had stopped in time, crystalized in the atmosphere of the Albania of my childhood. There were many bars, a few grocers, betting shops, biliard halls, a couple of restaurants and two schools. I stayed there two days taking pictures of mines and miners. The feeling I got when I began to develop the films was as intense as the one i experienced when i first set eyes on the town. Alternating emotional surges from the heart and mind, suspended in time. So for the past three years I have been trying to tell the story of this slice of Albania which seems to be transfixed in the past and yet catapulted into the future by the unstoppable logic of exploitative capitalisim which knows no bounds. Through my photos I tell the story of a community sitting upon a “mountain of gold” which sees its resources and minds ceaselessly draining away. Bulqizë has been defined by some as a social ghetto. To me it represents a resevoir of cultural archetypes which I have endeavoured to capture.




Elton Gllava was born in Albania under the closed communist regime of the 1970’s. When the borders opened in 1991 he seized his opportunity to experience another world and like thousands of Albanians made the crossing Italy. His early years in Rome exposed him to some of the darker sides of multilayered Roman society through various pursuits and employments……however in 2007 he made the decision to dedicate himself to photography. His photographic style is focused towards both social and authorial reportage with a strong draw towards the intimate aspects.



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Elton Gllava

17 thoughts on “Elton Gllava – Where The Crows Would Have Sung”

  1. Elton, I like everything about this essay. Great black and white, great portraits, great landscapes, great everything. Keep up the good work!!!

  2. Unfortunately, I just don’t see what both of you see in this essay. It strikes me as long and repetitious; the photos mostly have a muddy tonal palette and generally don’t express visually what the photographer writes about this mining town. It would have been good to have even one photograph as strong and emotive as the first photo of a young Polish coal miner in this article:


  3. Ah don’t know Mitch that link the stuff is sterile and verging on pretty. Atleast there is a fair bit of grit and honesty in this series here

  4. Imants – Well, for example, look at nos. 18, 31, 33, 34 and 36: they all express the same thing — and it isn’t what the photographer writes about. [Numbers that appear when you hover pointer on the photograph.]

  5. Hi all. I think this is a wonderful essay. Why? Because the photos really do give an honest “sense of place.” I look at it and think, “Ok, this is the mining town of Bulqizë.” I see a certain distance between the photographer and the subject/environment, but at the same time it strikes me as being honest. Yes, the portraits should be culled down. 40+ photos here and around 10 are portraits, I’d say. I don’t think Pep Bonet’s portrait Mitch refers to is any “stronger” (or less honest) than Elton’s, though. Maybe Pep’s has a bit more tonal range and “pops” more. Regardless, photos 14 and 34, for example, would serve as solid anchor portraits of Albanian miners. “[G]rey buildings of the main street outlined a town . . . many bars, a few grocers, betting shops, biliard halls, a couple of restaurants . . . schools.” “A community.” Yup–this is exactly what I see in this essay. Even #25 (women under tent, and one of my favorites) helps tie the narrative together and reminds us that they’re more than “Just” miners. Yes it’s a mining town, but I think Elton (and any good photojournalist) is trying to go deeper and show what the community feels like. Really, really good.

  6. look at nos. 18, 31, 33, 34 and 36: they all express the same thing its called reiforcing a idea visual repetition is a strong tool in communication
    ps looks like the photographer has epanded his comment but did this visually

  7. True. And 39, 14-1, and 44. So, I guess the question is, When does visual/idea reinforcement become “too much?” Is there such a thing? Do we expect straight PJ to be “tighter” than other essay forms? Food for thought, at least for me.

    Ps In physical form, I could see a kind-of filmstrip (or collage) layout for the portrait/”miner” idea, with 31, 33, 34, and 44 on one page, and 35, 36, 39, 14-1, and 41, for example, on the next.

  8. Sure the essay as presented is a bit of a dog’s breakfast but it sorta reflects the subject,disjointed neither here nor there it doesn’t try to outsmart itself

  9. Nice effort, nothing flashy and interesting honest essay. I wonder if David edited this essay? Doesn’t look like David usually likes it tight, concise and straight to the point.

  10. I had looked at this earlier but kind of in a hurry. I just spent a little more time and took a closer look. I think it is superb, excellent, great even. Yes, there is repetition, but in my own opinion, “anti-repetition” has become a dogma. If it works, it works – and here it works.

  11. I’m glad that we got some discussion going for a change, on which there’s been almost none lately — although that has been one of the strengths of BURN in the past.

    My view still is that this essay could be greatly strengthened by tighter editing. For example, I complained about a “muddy tonal palette” — but that is true of a minority of the pictures here: if some of the ones that suffer from this were cut, there would, in my view, be a great improvement.

    My own experience in editing my perennial book project is that editing down by cutting a small proportion of pictures — and by small changes in sequence — can have a disproportionally great effect in improving a series of photographs and increasing their impact. This is particularly true if you cut pictures that say the same thing: cutting out the repetition makes the essay speak more clearly and effectively.

  12. Mitch, what I wrote was my honest reaction to what I was seeing in Elton’s work. There’s a lot here that I would compare favorably with W. Eugene Smith; I kept thinking of the Pittsburgh series while I was looking at this work; and I like what I am seeing here. Could it use some editing? Probably: all of us can use some editing, but I am sure that if a huge amount of editing was needed here then Fran or Diego or Anton would have told Elton to cut more. I just don’t see it as a problem here.

  13. Presented on a site situation that likes to place things in neat boxes sure it could do with a edit here no need as the site seems to be ….This is what I am doing
    I have given up treating the stuff here as essays…… the text is just a add on for those that need to clarify their content ……it usually a a bunch of photos that are sorta related sometimes not…….. and as for a discussion well we sort of need a argument to make it go somewhere(grin)

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