Marubi National Museum of Photography
A Dinasty of Photographers
The Marubi Photo Collection (Fototeka Marubi) now National Museum of Photography in Shkodra comprises over 150,000 photos, many of which are of great historical, artistic and cultural significance.
It was compiled by three generations of photographers. Pietro Marubbi or Marubi (1834-1903) was an Italian painter and photographer who, as a supporter of Garibaldi, had emigrated from Piacenza, Italy, to Shkodra for political reasons around the year 1850. There, he founded a photo business, Foto Marubi, with cameras he had brought with him. The oldest photos in the collection date from 1858- 1859. Some of them were published in The London Illustrated News, the La Guerra d'Oriente and L'Illustration. Marubi was assisted by the young Rrok Kodheli (1862-1881) and his brother, Kel Kodheli (1870-1940), the latter of whom took over the family business after Pietro's death and changed his name to Kel Marubi. He furthered techniques with special effects and learned to retouch the negatives. He also began photographing outside the studio with more advanced cameras.
Closely related to the Marubis was the photographer and painter, Kolë Idromeno (1860-1939), of Shkodra. With the help of Pietro Marubbi, from whom he learned the art of photography, the young Idromeno was able to travel to Venice in 1875 to attend the Academy of Fine Arts. However, he could not endure the rigors of formal training and gave up after six months. He remained in Venice though, and worked for a few years as the assistant of an established Venetian painter, returning to Albania in 1878. In 1883, he opened a photo studio with cameras imported from the Pathé Company in France. In 1912, he became the first person in Albania to import moving picture equipment and to show films. In August of that year, he signed a contract with the Josef Stauber Company in Austria to set up the country's first, rudimentary public cinema.
The third generation of Marubi photographers in the family was Kel's son, Gegë Marubi (1907-1984). He studied in Lyon in 1923-1927 at the first school of photography and cinema, founded by the Lumière brothers, and worked in Shkodra as a professional photographer from 1928 to 1940. He pioneered working with celluloid instead of glass plates.
The Marubi photo collection captures and documents northern Albanian history from the League of Prizren onwards. It contains fascinating photographs of tribal leaders, highland uprisings, town life in Shkodra and various public events. Only a few of the photos have been published. Attempts have been underway since 1994, with UNESCO funding, to preserve the collection and make it available.