Portrait: Gjyshja (Grandmother)
This is my grandmother. I would tell you her name but she has two, Shemsije and Nazmije. I asked her if I could photograph her the day before I did and she eagerly accepted. With all her good traits and flaws she accepted to be captured by my camera. I told her to put an outfit she fancied and wait for me at golden hour.
I would, of course, photograph her in her apartment because there is no location that would fit her more. She made that house a home, in her way. She brought up my father and uncle alongside my incredible grandpa. I don’t know all her battles, but I know many and I can surely claim that she has had many. From being forced to stop school, to having the family involved in a blood feud as a young bride, to losing her son at a young age among many others.
But she had happiness too. She married a great man whom she greatly admired. “He was better looking than me”, she says missing him. He died about 4 years ago, a great loss for her and whoever knew him. But, she was also happy when the boys of the family were born, especially my brother, the 1st child in the family since my father’s birth. She remembers the day, the time and how she felt. He is now her favorite person. No, I don’t mind so much because I was loved like this by my grandfather, so that makes us equal. Obviously, I am joking. She also remembers the day and time I was born. She says she wasn’t very happy because she knows women have harder lives and she wouldn’t want me to suffer. Lately, she sometimes claims that she loves me more because I’m more compassionate and calmer than my brother. Likewise she loves the 3rd kid in the family, my cousin Arti because he is quite angelic and, of course, a boy. I don’t even say this in a resentful manner, I understand her.
While looking at her through my lens, I felt very strong emotions. It’s sad to be aware that she is so old. Those hands that fed and washed me as a child, they have gotten wrinklier than I had thought. I hate to admit that I hadn’t seen these details on her because every day I met her, I didn’t look close enough, and I didn’t analyze her. I do love listening to her though, I absolutely love hearing her stories of the past. As a storyteller myself, I cherish every past experience she shares with me.
Taking her photographs was such an insightful experience, I cried when I looked at them and edited them later. Somehow I froze time in those pictures, but time doesn’t freeze. As we get old, we live off of our memories and expect death which is a sad combination but possibly the realest of all periods in life. While I looked at her through my lens, she told me stories about herself and my grandfather; how they had gone to Ulqin in their youth and how she had felt self-conscious to meet some friends because she didn’t like her own clothes so much. “He got a bit mad at me for refusing to go, but what could I do?” she said, feeling a bit regretful she didn’t agree to go for his sake.