Nick St.Oegger (b. 1988) is a documentary photographer from California, whose work explores the relationship between people and the environments they inhabit, both urban and rural. He has spent several years working in the Western Balkans, with a specific focus on Albania. He recently published his first photo book, Kuçedra, which documents Europe’s last wild river. Clients include: Vice, Huck, Reuters, Le Monde, De Standaard, Nieuwe Revu, The Calvert Journal and Patagonia. Nick holds an MA in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism from the University of Westminster. He is currently based in Dublin, Ireland.
The Vjosa is Europe’s last undammed river, running untamed through southern Albania to the Adriatic Sea. It is a key source of life for numerous endangered plant and animal species, many of which have disappeared from the rest of Europe’s rivers. The Vjosa is a unique biosphere, largely unexplored by scientists, who are discovering new species with every journey downstream.
The river also holds important economic and cultural value for the nearby rural communities, which formed the backbone of Albania’s agricultural industry during communist times. These communities have seen decline and, in some cases, total abandonment as development by the central government has waned.
Today, the Vjosa and its tributaries are under threat from hydropower projects, which would permanently alter the flow of the river, harming life within, and displacing thousands who live along its banks. The dams are part of a hydropower boom in the Balkans, which has attracted international investors. However, their involvement does not often extend to oversight of social or environmental impact of these projects on the region.
Despite aspirations of joining the European Union, the Albanian government has ignored calls to halt construction on the Vjosa, which would qualify as a protected environment under EU law. Local villagers and an international group of scientists and activists are challenging the government in court, in attempts to preserve the biodiversity, communities and culture of the river region.
To view more of Nick St.Oegger’s work please visit his website.