These two images were taken on my first trip to Albania. At that time, I knew little about the country but it soon grew on me on a very special, emotional way.
Albania is an enthralling place, maybe because it is the perfect bridge between East and West, or maybe because of the natural kindness of its people. Soon after I arrived, I heard about Bektashism, a very tolerant form of Sufism found mainly on the Balkan peninsula with its World Headquarters based in Tirana. They were celebrating Nowruz, the same Persian New Year festival I had seen among the Kurdish people of Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
But here it was in the very heart of Europe, with representatives of all other religions in Albania there, too: Muslims, Catholic, Orthodox... They all gathered to attend the ceremonies and greet the leader of the order, while families honored the graves of the dervishes.
Following a story to make a set of pictures is the best way to work. Understanding what is going on around you is the most important step when creating a meaningful image. Getting the right shot or not might just be about being able to anticipate it, just before the lips kiss the stone (above).
Take me to the heart of Europe!