Rena Effendi: Spirit Lake

Rena Effendi:
Spirit Lake

June 15 - July 23, 2017


Rena Effendi was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and grew up in the USSR, witnessing her country’s path to independence—one marred by war, political instability, and economic collapse. From the outset, Effendi focused her photography on issues of conflict, social justice, and the oil industry’s effect on people and the environment. From 2002 to 2008, Effendi followed a 1,700-kilometer pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, documenting the impact this multibillion-dollar project had on impoverished farmers, fishermen, and other citizens. This six-year journey became her first book Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives Along the Pipeline, published in 2009. The project received numerous awards, including a Getty Images Editorial grant, a Fifty Crows International Fund Award, a Magnum Foundation Caucasus Photographer Award, and a Mario Giacomelli Memorial Fund Award. In 2012, Effendi published her second monograph “Liquid Land”, where her images of Baku are paired with photographs of perished butterflies hunted by her father, a Soviet entomologist, who collected more than 30,000 butterflies in the Soviet Union. “Liquid Land” punctuates the theme of fragility and environmental decay of her native city.

Over the past 10 years, Effendi has covered stories in the post-Soviet region, as well as in Turkey and Iran, including the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, women victims of heroin and sex trafficking in Kyrgyzstan, and the hidden lives of youth in Tehran. In 2011, she received the Prince Claus Fund Award for Cultural Development and moved to Cairo. In 2012, Effendi was short-listed for the Prix-Pictet Global Award for Photography and Sustainability, for her series documenting the lives of survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. An exhibition of the prize-winning photos toured the world. This spring, Effendi gave the North Dakota Museum of Art her seven prints included in the touring show, plus copies of two of them to be sold by the Museum.

Effendi’s involvement with World Press Photo goes back to 2005, when she was a participant in the Joop Swart Master Class. In 2012, she was a selector for, and later contributor to, the organization’s Reporting Change project. In 2014, thousands of photographers from around the world submitted 800 photos for twenty-seven prizes, of which Rena Effendi won two. This included 2nd prize in Observed Portrait Singles for Dasan Cavanaugh, age 10, has not cut his hair since he was born. Also in 2014 she won 3rd prize in the Observed Portrait Stories category for her series “Traditional Haying in Transylvania."

In addition to the twenty photos commissioned by the Museum for Songs for Spirit Lake and the seven Chernobyl photos, the North Dakota Museum of Art owns three prints from Effendi’s “Pipe Dreams” series and two others from “Liquid Land.”
Effendi now lives in Istanbul.

Rena Effendi, Growing Water, 2014. C-type print. 22.5 x 22.5 inches. Detail

Rena Effendi, Sunny Day in the Woods, 2014. C-type print. 22.5 x 22.5 inches. Detail

Rena Effendi, Myrna and Richard Outside Their Home in St.Michaels, 2014. C-type print. 22.5 x 22.5 inches. Detail