Our meeting last night allowed us to enjoy the remarkable experience of a presentation from a high-quality photographer, brought up in a totally different culture from our own, describing a world through the lens entirely from his point of view. Our host was Aleks Gjika Gjika (DPAGB AFIAP) from Albania, a country that was constrained under the USSR Communist regime and where the population demographic has, in recent years drifted to old age as young people move towards Western Europe.
The evening’s first content began with Aleks describing his home country with its mountains, springs and a way of life that clings to the past with the extensive use of manual labour, donkey and pony drawn carts, sheep but mainly goats and ram shackled buildings.
Interestingly the aged inhabitants live long and healthy lives due to the home grown organic fresh food that is their absolute diet.
There were virtually no cars, some bicycles and smiles on the faces of most people. Our author described being outside in the open air where the absolute silence felt almost that would hurt your ears. A country of intrinsic beauty, unique landscapes and living history. There was no evidence of stress in any of the remarkable faces that we saw. Aleks, it would seem, never ever shows an image that isn’t considered at every angle, down to the last detail, in order that his target – a glance or concern in the subject’s eyes would not reveal some story which was left to the viewer to reveal for themselves – this indeed is the hidden mystery of Je ne sais quoi – truly magical.
Our second batch of photographs took us, in contrast, to a county we know so well, from a book that Aleks has published “Gloucestershire in Photographs”. Quite clearly, he is a man on a mission to reveal his subjects at all hours of the day and, in particular, all weathers (the harsher the better). We will be familiar with Stroud, Toddington, Lydney harbour, Sheepscombe, Birdlip, Slad valley, Precott Hill, Forest of Dean. Although we might feel we know these places we saw them in a different light as Aleks strained to reach that elusive extra 0.1 of excellence. We especially appreciated his use of snow, frosts, mist and bluebells – all very difficult to bring to life in the way that we see them in nature. Perhaps we might consider him as a landscape photographer but after enjoying the range we saw last night, portraits, wildlife, WW2 enactment scenarios, locomotives, vintage cars, children, seascapes he is very much a man who is constantly “seeing” photographs.
The third segment of our night took us to what was called the Pictorial group.
From the description that the photographer gave us revealed that it is the entire art/science of photography that has captivated him, to the extent that the good or great image is, simply, not enough – he is driven to attain the exceptional. Who would attempt to capture butterflies mating? Who would wait until two squabbling coots reared up symmetrically opposite to each other and who would observe and capture the huge energetic effort involved in a goose taking off at Slimbridge. The more popular birds too took their place in the show, pin sharp was not enough, we saw owls, a red kite and an egret (which although superb) had frustrated Aleks despite 10 days of effort. The finale, after lots more, too numerous to mention, was for many of us the highlight of the evening – the raging sea and lighthouse at Porthcawl. The personal risk to both the man himself and his equipment knew no bounds in achieving two vertical walls of water, with the light sparkling from them, allowing us a view of the lighthouse between, in the grip of a violent storm – a truly evocative photograph.
These meagre notes hardly cover the expertise that has been developed by Aleks Gjika a complete appreciation of his work so far can be found at:
We commend a visit to gain inspiration – immediately!
All of those at the meeting last night look forward to Aleks joining us again in the very near future.