Rena Effendi documented environmental degradation and its effects on communities along the Absheron Peninsula, home to over half of Azerbaijan’s population and for over a century the main center of Azerbaijan’s onshore oil production. Due to environmental mismanagement and contamination caused by industrial, agricultural, and petroleum-related production, this area has become the most polluted area in Azerbaijan and one of the most polluted regions in the world. According to a 2001 UN report, the country's wildlife and vegetation has been seriously compromised with nearly 40 species of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles endangered or near extinction.
For her project, Effendi pairs her photographs with images of butterflies that were taken by her late father, who was a butterfly biologist at the Azerbaijan Institute of Zoology. By juxtaposing the fragile beauty of the butterflies with the places and people affected by environmental degradation, Effendi aims to draw attention to the vulnerability of the natural world and the consequences of its destruction.
Born in 1977 in Baku, Azerbaijan, Rena Effendi has been photographing since 2001. From the outset, Effendi has focused her documentary work on the oil industry’s effects on people’s lives in her own country. For six years, she followed a 1,700 km oil pipeline through Georgia and Turkey, collecting stories along the way. This work was published in 2009 in her first book Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives along the Pipeline. Effendi has won several international photography awards, participated in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass, and was chosen by Photo District News as one of thirty emerging photographers to watch. Her work has been published and exhibited worldwide.