Rena Effendi

Photographer, National Geographic, Azerbaijan

Born in Baku, Azerbaijan Rena Effendi is an award-winning photographer, whose early work focused on the oil industry’s effects on people’s lives in her region. As a result, she followed a 1,700 km oil pipeline through Georgia and Turkey, collecting stories along the way. This work of six years was published in 2009 in her first book “Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives along the Pipeline”. In 2012 Effendi published her second monograph “Liquid Land”, a lyrical visual narrative, where her images are paired with photographs of perished butterflies hunted by her father, a Soviet entomologist, who collected more than 30,000 butterflies in Soviet Union. Liquid Land punctuates the theme of fragility and environmental decay of Baku, the city where Effendi was born and grew up.

Rena Effendi is the laureate of the Prince Claus Fund award for Culture and Development. In the words of the Prince Claus Fund Award committee, two qualities pervade Rena Effendi’s photography: a deep sense of empathy, and a quiet celebration of the strength of the human spirit. By portraying individual dilemmas in forgotten communities around the world Rena Effendi spotlights uncomfortable global issues such as social marginalization, post-war trauma and environmental degradation.

Effendi’s work has been exhibited worldwide including at the Saatchi Gallery (London), Istanbul Modern, Venice Biennial, NYC MOMA and other venues. Effendi’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the Istanbul Modern Museum, Open Society Foundations and the Prince Claus Fund. Effendi has worked on editorial commissions for the National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times magazine, The New Yorker, Vogue, Marie Claire, Newsweek, TIME, The Sunday Times and many others.

Rena's stories for National Geographic magazine have covered diverse topics, from documenting the art of haymaking in Transylvania to the impact of Mahatma Gandhi in India.

Effendi has received National Geographic’s “All Roads” photography award, a Getty Images Editorial Grant, an Alexia Foundation grant, as well as World Press Photo and Sony World Photography awards.