“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.