Take Five: “The stories of young women should be taken into account because their fates affect us all”


Jutta Benzenberg, photographer. Photo: Katharina Klosi
Jutta Benzenberg, photographer. Photo: Katharina Klosi

Jutta Benzenberg is a well-known German photographer that has been living in and photographing Albania for more than 30 years. She has travelled extensively around the country for different projects and her work is focused on humanistic photography. She collaborated with UN Women in Albania during 2021 for the photographic project “I have a dream…”, bringing to attention the dreams of young women in urban and rural areas of the country, including those impacted by the earthquake of 2019.

This artistic project is part of the “Gender sensitive post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction” project, focused on supporting and empowering women in 11 affected municipalities, supported by the Swedish Government.

What is the overall message of the exhibition?

The purpose of the exhibition is to make these young women visible and to give them a voice. The stories of each person should be taken into account because their fates affect us all. This project also aims to convey an image of young women in remote areas because they often disappear behind the actions, voices, and lives of men.

How did these young women respond to the photo project?

It was a special experience to meet these young women and they all flourished in front of my camera. We were able to develop a very good and very intimate relationship during the sessions, which resulted in excellent portraits. They were very happy to be photographed because they understood that our project would give them a voice and an image, and this made them very proud.

One of them, for example, was so touched that she even cried. Her parents, too, were very open, but I have to say that I also encountered rejections. I am very grateful to UN Women for making it possible to give a face and a voice to these wonderful young women.

What were some their dreams and challenges?

The dreams of these young women are very different from what I would have imagined at that age. They dream of becoming a doctor, a psychologist, a hairdresser, a politician, a nurse, a painter, an actress, a photo model. Most of them emphasized that they want to work hard to be successful and make their parents proud. It is important for them to bring honor to their parents. But as different as their dreams are, they have one thing in common: each one of them wants to be independent.

What is the most memorable moment and/or conversation you had with them?

The most amazing moment in portraits is when the protagonist opens their eyes for me to look into their soul. But what particularly moved me was the encounter with Sindi. She had the expression of an old soul. She had lost her mother, then she took care of her father, who was dependent on her after an accident. After he died, she was there for her siblings, and she had to quit school. Her story confirms once again that women are often much stronger than people expect and yet they are not recognized as such. They deserve more respect and support. This fact encourages me to continue my work in humanistic photography and follow their stories to make them public.

How do these young women compare with your younger self at their age? What advice would you give to young women in Albania?

I see no difference and I have learned more from these young women than I can ever give. I wish them to be so strong so that they can protect themselves from the bad things and people around them.

But I would like to pass on to them one piece of advice that my father gave to me: No one in this world has the right to treat you badly and never let yourself be intimidated by anything or anyone!