From the moment Rena Effendi picked up an old manual Nikon camera, metal and heavy with a loud shutter noise, she knew she wanted to be a photographer.
Born in 1977 in Baku, Azerbaijan and educated as a linguist, Rena started photographing at the age of 24, while attending painting classes. Growing up in the USSR, she witnessed her country’s rough path to independence, marred by war, political instability and economic collapse. The chaotic 1990s affected the way Effendi perceives photography, as she attempted to make visual sense of the fragile world that surrounded her.
For six years, Effendi followed a 1,700 km pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey documenting the impact this multi-billion dollar project had on the impoverished farmers, fishermen and other citizens. This journey became her first published monograph -Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives along the Pipeline. This body of work received numerous awards including the Fifty Crows Photography Award, the Magnum Foundation Caucasus Photographer Award and the Mario Giacomelli Memorial Fund Award. Her second monograph, Liquid Land, released last year, is a personal narrative combining her father’s photographic collection of rare endemic Azerbaijani butterflies, carefully posed on flowers, with her images of environmentally devastated landscapes and people living amongst the destruction in her native city of Baku. Her scientist father, Rustam Effendi passed away in 1991, right before the break-up of the Soviet Union, a day he dreamed and hoped would come, but unfortunately missed. Rena felt compelled to publish his life’s work in some form and it developed into an enthralling experiment putting this book together, feeling she was having a visual dialogue with her late father.
Since 2007, Rena Effendi has photographed in the post-Soviet region, as well as in Turkey and Iran. She covered the 2008 Russia – Georgia conflict and women victims of heroin and sex trafficking in Kyrgyzstan. In 2012, she was short-listed for the Prix Pictet Award in Photography and Sustainability for her project on female survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In 2011, Effendi became the laureate of the Prince Claus Fund Award for Cultural Development and moved to Cairo, focusing on issues surrounding the Egyptian Christian community.
Rena Effendi's work has exhibited worldwide and been published in the New Yorker, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Sunday Times, Marie Claire, MORE and many others.
Built on Grass
– House of Photography
Konsul Knudtzons gate 4B
Liquid Land, making a book
with my father
Thursday May 7th