Liquid Land (2005-2010)
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 throughout 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 life’s work is the fifty photographs of endangered butterflies for a manuscript he never published.
Next to my father’s dead but iridescent butterflies, my photographs show life in some of the world’s most polluted areas, near Baku, where I was born and grew up. In my mind, the contrasting images gravitate towards each other - as I have to my father. Since working on this book I have gotten to know him much better than when he was alive.
Liquid Land is a collective portrait of communities living in precarious conditions among the oil spills and industrial ruins of the Absheron peninsula. Pushed to the edges of city and society, they inhabit makeshift homes, oilfields and abandoned factories; their numbers grow, with new children born daily. Many are refugees of war - rural populations that lost everything and fled to the city to be safe and to find work.
Living in these inhumane conditions for three decades now, they no longer have their village expanse but still breed livestock among the metal waste of factories and hang their laundry on oilrigs. Land is liquid underneath these people’s homes - their present survival tenuous, their children’s future uncertain.