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  Jonathan Lowenstein, September
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Past winners 2006
  Sarah Caron, September
Rena Effendi, September
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Grant documentary work courtesy of Rena Effendi
Grant Use Summary (by Rena Effendi)
Pipedreams: a chronicle of lives along the pipeline in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey
Pipedreams is my first book that evolved from a long-term project documenting my country’s post-soviet turmoil in which corruption, poverty and war were all related to and fed by oil and gas. Over the past six years the story developed from something which only concerned Azerbaijan into a chronicle extending across three countries, through eruptive conflict zones, and links governments, oil corporations and people in an experiment not only in engineering, but manipulation of human lives.

Refugees, unemployment, conflicts, corruption – this is the reality which surrounds the oil and gas pipelines in this region. Stretching more than 1,700 kilometers, the complex route of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline was determined by delicate maneuvering through a minefield of unresolved conflicts and competing geopolitical agendas. Hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake, and my project gives an account of the human costs involved. The oil pipeline itself is not visible, as it is buried under ground at varying depths. But I attempted to trace the impact aboveground through the lives of the people who live along the route. With the help of the Getty grant, I traveled along the pipeline through three countries documenting the changes brought by oil into the lives of ordinary citizens in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

What I witnessed in this journey is that initial promises and expectations of trickle-down wealth still remain unfulfilled. This is simply the game of power, an attempt of the West to secure reliable source of oil and gas outside of Russia and Iran. Political assurances mean nothing to people who have become victims in this New Great Game, victims who never were asked if they were willing to sacrifice. While governments promised better lives for their citizens who live in brutal poverty, most of those directly affected by the pipeline have benefited least.

In Azerbaijan, over $70 million worth of oil runs daily under the houses of people who have not had gas in their homes for a decade. I met farmers all over the country that have lost land to the pipeline while their compensation has been stolen by corrupt officials.

In Turkey on the Mediterranean coast, fish populations have been decimated by pipeline related traffic and fishermen are forced to abandon their nets for employment opportunities in Iraq. “They did not tell us they were going to take our sea away from us. We want our sea back!” – the fishermen I met in Ceyhan Yumurtalik bay told me. Ethnic tension simmers just below the veneer of professionalism in Kars, as Turkmen and Kurds endure employment and human rights abuses, adding resentment and pressure to the complex cultural and religious web of southeast Turkey.

Pipedreams is dedicated to the neglected people of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, linked by the pipeline and their faded hopes for a better future. In the book I would like to give voice to the people I met during this journey. The simple farmers and fishermen, who have been sacrificed for their countries “greater good”, who have been hidden by glossy corporate publications and government propaganda which praise the economic benefits of the pipeline. No doubt state budgets have increased, but at what cost to the people who live their silent lives along the pipeline?
Biography
Rena Effendi (born 1977 in Baku, Azerbaijan) has been active as a photographer since 2001 and from the outset, her interest has been social documentary photography. Her work focuses on themes of urbanization, post-conflict societies, corruption, and the oil industry's effects on people's lives.

Effendi has exhibited in Azerbaijan, Germany, Greece, France, Holland and lectured at the University of California Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism (USA). In 2004, she was a regional winner of the "Fifty Crows" International Fund for Documentary Photography competition and was awarded Azerbaijan's Photographic Artist of the Year. In 2005, she was selected to participate in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and received honorable mention in National Geographic's "All Roads" photography competition.

Effendi's work was selected for personal exhibitions at the 2006 "Visa Pour l'Image" Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France and at the "Les Imagiques" Festival of Photography in Bordeaux, France.

Her work has been published in Le Monde, Newsweek, Ogoniok, EurasiaNet, Photo District News, Expert, Photo & Video, and International Investor Magazine.

Effendi is a member of a Moscow-based Agency.Photographer.RU.

See more photography by Rena Effendi.
 
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