Rena Effendi

Azerbaijanian, 1977–present

Effendi is an award-winning photographer, whose early work focused on the oil industry’s effects on people’s lives in her region. As a result, she followed a 1,700 km oil pipeline through Georgia and Turkey, collecting stories along the way. This work of six years was published in 2009 in her first book Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives along the Pipeline. In 2012 Effendi published her second monograph Liquid Land, a lyrical visual narrative, where her images are paired with photographs of perished butterflies hunted by her father, a Soviet entomologist, who collected more than 30,000 butterflies in Soviet Union. Liquid Land punctuates the theme of fragility and environmental decay of Baku, the city where Effendi was born and grew up. Her portraits of the displaced and the disempowered convey moments of unspoken anguish, but more so they express dignity in the struggle for survival.

Effendi’s work has been exhibited worldwide including at the Saatchi Gallery (London), Istanbul Modern, Venice Biennial, NYC MOMA and other venues. Effendi’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the Istanbul Modern Museum, Open Society Foundations and the Prince Claus Fund. She has won several international photography awards including the “Fifty Crows” Documentary Photography award, SONY World Photography award, National Geographic “All Roads” photography award, Magnum Foundation Emergency Grant, Getty Images Editorial grant and the Alexia Foundation grant. 

In 2011 Effendi became the laureate of the Prince Claus Fund award for Culture and Development and in 2012 she was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet award in photography and sustainability for her series Chernobyl: Still Life in the Zone. In 2014 Effendi won two awards in the World Press Photo “Observed Portraits” categories. She has also been on the jury of such prestigious photographic competitions as the World Press Photo and SONY World Photography Awards.