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

Parnassius nordmanni. Endangered species rarely found in Shah-Dag and Baba-Dag mountains of Guba, Azerbaijan © Rena Effendi/Prince Claus Fund/INSTITUTE

This is the first UK showing of this new exhibition by award-winning Azerbaijani photographer Rena Effendi, and 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.

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