Albania is a small country in the heart of the Balkans. Despite its rich culture, people from outside the country do not know much about it. It is also my homeland, the place of my early childhood. I grew up separated from it, and returned later to pick up the threads that were left behind.

What I found was modernity and tradition living together. I traveled a lot and started to know my birthplace, the people, their mentality, and their traditions. I felt very welcome, and was fascinated by all the people I met. They were kind, friendly and curious about my work.

I made this journey together with my wife. When people realized that we were a couple, they were very open, welcoming us inside their homes and extending wishes, blessings and congratulations. Marriage is very important in Albania. Everyone has to get married: it is believed to make men stronger and more respected in society.

In this photographic project I would like to show the everyday lives of Albanian people — the big picture, as well as the small, seemingly insignificant moments. What impressed me most was the strong family union, the connection among people. I found it everywhere — in married young couples and their babies, at a funeral ceremony where relatives shared their pain, at a wedding party, or when a son accompanied his father to work.

—Enri Canaj

Editor’s Note: We first featured Canaj’s work as a part of our feature on the Depression Era Project, a collaborative effort focused on documenting Greece’s current economic and social crisis.