“For a long time I wanted to scan some pictures from Rena Effendi’s “The line of life” (Линия жизни)” – writes ulysses85. – “Also because this was one of the albums I most anticipated this year for my collection. It was published in a very low number, only 500 copies, so if you meet it, buy it by all means, otherwise you will regret it, because the book is beautiful (even if the text is sometimes creepy).
Effendi took up photography in 2001, and from the outset was interested in the influence of the oil industry on the lives of simple people. In 2006 on behalf of British Petrol she traveled along the Azerbaijani section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to take photos for a company calendar which highlighted BP’s social responsibility programs. This journey convinced Effendi that the majority of the inhabitants of Azerbaijan in no way benefit from the riches flowing beneath their feet. This discovery prompted her to do independent investigative photo journalism. Attempting to figure out what lays behind the richness of the Azerbaijani oil boom put on public display, she followed through the 1700-kilometer-long pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, collecting a multitude of never told stories along the way. The following quotations are from the album.”
“The oil investment in the 90s brought a new richness to Azerbaijan, inflicted by heavy corruption, poverty, unemployment and postwar humanitarian disaster. And, of course, this only increased the gap between rich and poor, and it has not created any new jobs outside the big cities, as it was promised. Billions of dollars have been invested in lucrative offshore fields, while the utterly decayed Soviet oil infrastructure was abandoned to a permanent ruin, making the environment a putrid wasteland with oil swamps and dumps.”
“The influx of foreign money and media has soon created a culture of bars and restaurants to serve foreigners and the small local middle class generated by the oil boom. Prostitution is increasing: young rural girls without any hope of job opportunities in their places are flocking to Baku in search of a livelihood.”
“In the center of Baku is situated its oldest and poorest district, Mahalla, where people live all their lives in small huts with flat roofs. This historical district, the last bastion of tradition conserves an old and unique culture. A century ago it was the quarter of oil workers. Today’s inhabitants of Mahalla – mullahs, poets, pigeon breeders, former inmates – earn their living on minor repairs, retail trade, uncomplicated crafts right on their doorsteps. Certain government officials, however, fearing to miss the new opportunities of easy riches, try to evict the residents of Mahalla, expropriate their houses, and sell building permits to big enterprises who then erect faceless residential houses on the place of the traditional small courtyards.”
“The only route of oil and gas to bypass the Russian energy system, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline deeply affects the political, economic and environmental interests of the neighboring countries. But the region also abounds in conflicts without it. In the wake of successive waves of hostility a large number of refugees left their homelands, and live now in subhuman conditions, decaying hotels, abandoned housing estates, wagons, dugouts, former hospitals and schools.”
“Despite the government’s generous promises of a better life to its citizens living in poverty, most of who are directly affected by the pipeline, are left with nothing. Azerbaijani farmers have lost their lands. Next to a multi-billion technological marvel, the Sangachal Terminal, the starting point of the pipeline, the 4,500 inhabitants of an impoverished village daily breathe the poisoned air. In Georgia, the pipeline goes through seismically active mountains, thus accelerating the destruction of the already fragile landscape. In Turkey the pipeline has caused further damages to already fragile ecosystems.”
“Give us back our sea!” – requires Benjamin Geregen, a former fisherman in Yumurtalik, who lost his livelihood due to the movement of the oil tankers.