I co-authored Liquid Land
with my father Rustam Effendi, a dissident scientist and entomologist who devoted his life to studying, hunting and collecting over 30,000 butterflies in the Soviet Union. Inherited by the Azerbaijani State Institute of Zoology after his death in 1991, a large part of his collection has disintegrated. Alongside thousands of glass boxes filled with butterfly dust, locked away in the dark corridors of the Zoology Institute, the only other visual evidence remaining of his lifes work is the fifty photographs of endangered butterflies for a manuscript he never published. --Rena Effendi.
Next to Rena Effendi fathers dead but iridescent butterflies, her own photographs show life in some of the worlds most polluted areas, near Baku, where she was born and grew up. The contrasting images gravitate towards each other - as she has to her father.
Effendi photographs the barren, liquid land of Absheron - its environmental and urban decay, its people living amidst the chaos of industrial pollution. Her fathers work was in the fresh mountain air. The butterflies that he had hunted since he was a boy are spectacular in their symmetry. Carefully placed on plants, they shine with vibrant colours, yet he had to kill each one of them for a picture, piercing his microscopic pins through them.
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 industrys effects on peoples lives in her own country. Effendis work has been exhibited around the globe and has won several international photography awards including the Fifty Crows Documentary Photography award, Getty Images Editorial grant, National Geographic All Roads photography award, and Magnum Foundation Caucasus Photographer prize. In 2011, Effendi won the Prince Claus Fund award for cultural development and was selected by the Magnum Foundation as one of the Emergency Fund grantees. In 2012 Rena Effendi was short-listed for the prestigious Prix Pictet Award in Photography and Sustainability for her series Still Life in the Zone, focusing on female survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. This work was exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in London in October 2012.