First impressions, Berat, Albania / by Jussi Ulkuniemi


My first adventure of the summer of 2015 took off in Albania on 18th of May, as we explored an ancient town of Berat for a week, documenting the life and traditions of the locals with a group of student photographers from Lahti Institute of Design. This trip was a part of a documentary course run by Stefan Bremer, where we had daily tasks of confronting locals for photographs, stories and more.

For this course, Berat turned out to be the perfect town. A scenic town, filled with interesting stories and history in a country ravaged by tyranny (see Enver Hoxha) not so long ago. During my stay I have made friends all over the city, visited a local high school and been invited to a traditional family house in the suburbs. Still, under all the beauty lies complex social problems that become very transparent as you take few steps away from the touristy main boulevard. Inequality between men and women, drug trafficking and the thug culture are the first things you start seeing as you observe.

Still, as I observed I also got very close to some youngsters around my age, made friends and had some of the most eye-opening conversations of my life in there. Despite the hardship that this country has gone through -or maybe because of that- respect and honesty are very valued traits in Albania. Once you show that you are truly interested and treat everyone with a smile, there is no threat and you will have a very unique experience in Albania.

Volvo Berat

I really look forward to seeing how this country probably changes in a very short time span. I'll be back here someday again.