Early Photography in Albania
Robert Elsie
The Dutch writer and journalist, A. Den Doolaard (1901-1994), pseudonym of Cornelis Johannes George Spoelstra, was born in Zwolle (the Netherlands) as the son of a Protestant preacher. Having spent his early years in South Africa, he attended school in The Hague. There he held a job as an accountant with an oil company for several years (1920-1928), but he was restless by nature. In 1928, after he had begun writing, he quit his job to travel in France and through the Balkans, financing his journeys with various odd jobs, including photography and travelogues for Dutch newspapers. Den Doolaard was the author of over fifty books, published between 1926 and 1983. His Balkan travels took him initially to Yugoslavia and Greece. In early 1932, he decided to return from Salonika to Sarajevo via Albania. After spending two weeks journeying from Struga, in good part on foot, he reached Shkodra and from there visited Theth in the mountains. Den Doolaard was fascinated by blood feuding, of which he had heard from a German traveller. This trip gave rise to his best known novel De herberg met het hoefijzer (The Horseshoe Inn), Amsterdam 1933, that centred on murder and vendetta in northern Albania. He wrote the book in early 1933, mostly in Skopje and Mavrovi Hanovi in western Macedonia where he was staying with his French wife, Daisy Roulôt. A recent Dutch-language biography of Den Doolaard (Dronken van het leven) by Hans Olink has uncovered that on 1 March 1933, while absorbed in the Albanian novel of blood and vendetta, Den Doolaard murdered his wife’s lover, a Serbian infantry lieutenant. The murder is recounted candidly in his later novel, Samen is twee keer alleen (Together is Being Alone Twice Over), Amsterdam 1976, but no one recognized at the time that it was based on fact. Among Den Doolaard’s other works of Balkan inspiration are: Quatre mois chez les comitadjis (Four Months with the Komitadjis) Paris 1932; Oriënt Express, Amsterdam 1934, Van vrijheid en dood (Of Freedom and Death), Amsterdam 1935; De bruiloft der zeven zigeuners (The Marriage of the Seven Gypsies), Amsterdam 1939; Het land achter Gods rug (The Country Behind God’s Back), Amsterdam 1956, and Joegoslavië: kaleidoscopisch reisland (Yugoslavia: Kaleidoscopic Travel Country), Amsterdam 1956. Den Doolaard was early to warn of the rise of fascism in Europe and fled to England during the Second World War. In later years, he returned to Yugoslavia, which he came to regard as his second home, particularly Macedonia. A monument was raised in his honour in the town of Ohrid in May 2006. He is buried in Hoenderloo near Arnhem. Only eight photos have survived from Den Doolaard’s journey to Albania in 1932. We are grateful to Gerda Mulder of the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and to the writer's daughter,  Branda Hedel-Spoelstra, for enabling us to present this collection.
A. Den Doolaard
INTRODUCTION The A. Den Doolaard Photo Collection | Albania 1932
Den Doolaard monument in Ohrid
Den Doolaard on horseback in Macedonia, ca. 1933
AL Photography A. Den Doolaard - INTRODUCTION Photo Collection Webdesign J. Gross TOP A. Den Doolaard - INTRODUCTION