City of Contradictions: Tirana's Transition

PhotographerKimberly Kalaja
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

This series explores the trauma and chaos that hides beneath the surface of the seemingly prosperous post-communist Albanian capital.


Tirana is the new capital of an old country. Restaurants and nightclubs flourish, but there are few jobs, trash-littered streets, no sewage treatment to supply safe drinking water, and power outages that roll through the city regularly. Hope remains, but it is buried in the contradictions of the place, contradictions that frustrate locals, and mystify outsiders: Photo 1: The Sacred and the Profane: A cemetery in Tirana, nestled in the shadow of the sublime Mali i Dajtit has become a dumping ground for ruined appliances and trash. Photo 2: The view from the ground: Washing Machines, cable television, and Internet have recently become available. But lack of basic infrastructure means there is not enough water or electricity to go around. Pedestrians see the sky through a tangle of illegally installed wires that dangle from rooftops and sag from makeshift posts. Photo 3: Slogans: Under the former dictator, "official" slogans warning citizens of the evils of capitalism and the West appeared on placards and hillsides. Mayor Edi Rama applies an old idea to a new project for shaping the minds of the populace by painting slogans encouraging Albanians to be polite on city buildings. Photo 4: Lost without a master: Stray dogs fill the streets of Tirana, forming packs and roaming the city. A troubling vestige, they are deliberately ignored as they run alongside mothers with baby carriages and the Mercedes-Benzes of the New Albanians on one of the city's most elegant streets.