Rena Effendi: Liquid Land, Legacies of Oil and Power at Impressions Gallery

© Rena Effendi, School boys in a refugee settlement at the abandoned gas

© Rena Effendi, School boys in a refugee settlement at the abandoned gas

Impressions Gallery presents Liquid Land: Legacies of Oil and Power by Rena Effendi which reveal the struggles and resilience of people living in some of the world’s most polluted areas in the former Soviet Union.

The exhibition brings together two related bodies of work made over the last ten years. Chernobyl: Still Life in the Zone is a moving portrait of the lives of elderly women in the Ukraine’s notorious Zone, the restricted area around Reactor 4 which exploded on 26 April 1986. In the aftermath of nuclear catastrophe, these women returned to reclaim their homes from an inhospitable world where most of the food they produce still contains dangerous levels of radiation.

Liquid Land depicts communities and refugees of war living amongst the oil spills and industrial ruin of the petroleum-rich Absheron peninsula in Azerbaijan, near to the capital Baku where Effendi was born and grew up. These landscapes and portraits are paired with images that pay tribute to Effendi’s late father, a dissident scientist and entomologist who devoted his life to studying and collecting butterflies in the Soviet Union. The only remaining visual evidence of his life’s work is a collection of photographs of endangered butterflies for a manuscript he never published.

Taken as a whole, the exhibition transcends geographical borders to become a collective portrait of people who have survived isolation, devastating pollution and political chaos. Amidst decay, life goes on: families decorate their crumbling homes with peacock feathers; a boy plays his drum on a heap of construction waste; and iridescent butterflies wings shine in the fresh mountain air.

About Rena Effendi:

Rena was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1977 and is a social documentary photographer based in Cairo. Her first job, at the age of 19, was as a translator for the Azerbaijan International Oil Company, a consortium of some of the world’s largest oil producers. Having gained an inside perspective, Effendi began to take photographs in 2001, focusing on the oil industry’s effects on ordinary people’s lives. Her work on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was published as the book Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives Along the Pipeline by Schilt Publishing in 2009.
About Impressions Gallery:
Impressions Gallery helps people understand the world through photography. The Gallery collaborates with photographers and organisations nationally and internationally to commission, exhibit and publish photography. Our work with new emerging photographers and often-overlooked artists cements and builds their careers. Established in 1972 as one of the first specialist photographic galleries in Europe, Impressions has grown to become one of the UK’s leading independent venues for contemporary photography. We are located in the heart of Bradford, UNESCO City of Film. We work with local communities and young people to make photography accessible to all through our formal and informal education. Impressions is funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire, and Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

Venue: Impressions Gallery, Aldermanbury, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD1 1SD

Open: 26th April - 22th June 2013

For more information please visit:

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