Zagoria and Northern Albania is are still wild and still reasonably unspoiled areas. Unfortunately the traditional lifestyle of the People there is disappearing very fast. This collection features the people of the villages around Vikos gorge in Zagori and nearby mountains.
During the last ten years they have participated in an ethnographic research focusing on their relationship with their land and with nature done by Dr. Kalliopi Stara, Cultural Ecologist.
In September 2006 Dr. Kalliopi Stara and me visited them again having in mind the idea of a collection of their portraits. This was the beginning of this photograph collection that is continued until today”.
Zagori means the land behind the mountains.
These mountains consist a dramatic physical landscape chapped by tectonic activity in a dynamic topography with characteristics the bare land of the alpine summer pastures, the famous Vikos gorge, warm valleys, plateaus surrounded by mountains, extended black pine and oak forests, solitary Heldreich’s pines that their age counts hundreds of years and when nature meets culture dragon lakes, terraces, shredded trees, drystone walls, haunted trees and sacred forests.
After the 17th century the men of the area left the difficult mountain terrain for regions as far as Asia minor, the Balkans or central Europe where they worked mainly as merchants. The ‘travelers’ were always returning, investing their money to luxury houses and public buildings; schools, bridges, churches and paver roads that make Zagori famous for its traditional architecture today. Transhumant shepherds’, farmers, musicians, painters and local healers also left and continue to leave their traces in Zagori, creating and maintaining a distinct local culture.
The inhabitants of this land are the ‘People in stone’. In a series of meetings during the last 20 years they narrated us about their lives and their relation with their land. That’s how this collection was created, by many small moments and stories. Behind the photos is the voice of Eleni calling and threating her goats to return to her, tens of local cherry varieties, traditional herbal recipes for every pain and malady and the last shepherds of Vikos gorge who knew the nests of the bearded vulture, extinct from the 2000’s from mainland Greece.
Their place, their landscape and the people of the mountains themselves are proving today to be particularly vulnerable. Land abandonment, depopulation, commercialization and an invasive tourist industry are rather ‘clichés’ for most mountain communities of the world, their people and culture.
Zagori’s most inhabitants continue to be modern ‘travelers’ who return to the land behind the mountains obeying a nostalgia that brings them back home maintaining their communities alive.