Rena Effendi gave a fascinating talk at London’s HOST gallery last night. I first became aware of her work when she allowed Toby Deveson and I to exhibit some of her images our website, Odyssey Photography. I’ve followed her career ever since, so was very pleased to hear about the evening.
Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Effendi first worked as a translator for the Azerbaijan International Oil Company, a consortium of some of the world’s largest oil producers. The job gave the financial independence that eventually allowed the former painter to pursue photography fulltime.
She talked through two projects: Pipe Dreams (exploring the lives of people living along the pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey) and House of Happiness (work covering women at risk in the Ferghana Valley a region of Central Asia). Both works were respectful to their subjects, showed great compassion and were beautifully captured.
I was particularly struck by a number of things. Effendi is very wise and has a enviable clarity of purpose. She has a detailed knowledge of the forces shaping her subjects. She’s also very successful in photographing her own country, something I think many people find really challenging.
A show of Effendi’s work continues at the HOST gallery until 16 January 2010.