A few weeks ago I worked in Albania running photography workshops with PhotoVoice and World Vision.  For those who haven’t heard of PhotoVoice, they’re an amazing charity who work worldwide, to empower marginalised groups with a voice through photography.  I have been working with PhotoVoice for over five years and I’m a huge supporter of their work.

On this project I worked alongside two other photographers, Jenny Matthews and Glynis Shaw and film maker, David Nwikpo and we spent just over two weeks in Lac in western Albania.  We all worked with different groups of ten young people (15 – 17 years old) and a staff member from the local World Vision office who also acted as translator (btw, they were all fabulous and a brilliant support)!  Jenny and her group were based in Lac, Glynis and her group were in a small village called Milot and my group and I were in Marmuras.  David went between all of us, filming our progress.

The young people concentrated on different issues including child welfare, economic development and education.  In our group we explored education and the young people made photographic work around the following issues:

*  the lack of resources available in schools (3 glass bottles were the only resources in that school’s chemistry department)
*  the state of repair in schools (broken windows, no heating, sometimes no toilets with young children often having to go in the playgrounds)
*  the lack of choice in further education (the government decides what you study at higher education depending on your grades and the job roles that need to be filled)
* money and it’s impact on education (some people can’t afford to send their children to school and many families are not able to afford school books)
* balancing issues of traditional life with modern life (girls especially are often expected to remain with their families after high school and until they get married)
* families who are forced to hide away from society because of revenge killings or Gjakmarrja (if a family is under threat they remain hidden away in their houses, unable to go out and with the children unable to attend school)
* the impact of the internet on modern education (school books require pupils to do research online but many villages do not have internet and there is a lack of computers with internet in schools)

At the end of the project each group held an exhibition and invited members of the local community, members of local government and friends and family.  All three exhibitions were hugely successful and I can’t tell you how proud we were of them all.

Over the next few months World Vision will bring the three exhibitions together as a main exhibition in the Palace of Culture in Lac.  It will then travel to Tirana, the capital city. The photographs will also be published as a book and they are also available on the PhotoVoice website to view.

It’s always such an amazing opportunity working on projects like this. Amazing, inspiring, hilarious, challenging.

Language barriers and cultural differences create the most hilarious and challenging situations.  I say this after two weeks of having fried eggs and squirty cheese for breakfast, shaped into different smiley faces by the grumpy but secretly soft-hearted waiters.  Who, incidently, we had the biggest language barrier issues with – I can’t tell you how many days it took us to establish that we even wanted breakfast in the hote!!

Collecting prints from the printers at 6.30am was also an experience and one I wouldn’t have missed for the world.  I loved my morning walk through the market, waving at market stall holders, much to their bemusement.  At that time of the morning the market was setting up, bustling and bathed in the most gorgeous light.

There are of course issues that the young people work with that you cannot help but be moved by and I can’t describe the immense feeling you get when you see the very brilliant photographs they take and the very proud looks on their faces when they show their work to friends and family.

Please take five minutes to have a look at their work on the PhotoVoice website and feel free to comment on their photography and the issues raised by tweeting @photovoice or leaving comments below, which I will pass on to PhotoVoice and the young photographers.

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(Above are a couple of my photos from the primary school in Marmuras)

Published on September 28, 2011. Filed under /