Born in 1977 in Baku, Azerbaijan, Rena Effendi grew up in the USSR - witnessing her country’s rough path to independence, one marred by war, political instability and economic collapse. The chaotic 1990s strongly impacted the way Effendi perceives photography, as she attempted to make visual sense of the fragile world that surrounded her. Educated as a linguist, she took her first photographs in 2001 while she was attending painting classes.
Between 2002-2008 Effendi followed a 1,700 km pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia and
Turkey documenting the impact this multi-billion dollar project had on the impoverished farmers, fishermen and other citizens. This six-year journey became her first monograph -
Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives Along the Pipeline, published by Schilt Publishing. This project, funded by the Getty Images Editorial Grant received numerous awards including: the
Fifty Crows Photography Award, the Magnum Foundation Caucasus Photographer Award, and the Mario Giacomelli Memorial Fund Award.
From 2007 Rena Effendi has been photographing in the post-Soviet region, as well as Turkey and Iran, including the 2008 Russia – Georgia conflict, women victims of heroin and sex trafficking in Kyrgyzstan and female survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which in 2012 was short-listed for the Prix Pictet Award in Photography and Sustainability. In 2011 Effendi became the laureate of the Prince Claus Fund Award for Cultural Development and moved to Cairo where she focused on issues surrounding the Egyptian Christian community with funding from the Magnum Foundation Emergency grant.
In 2013, Schilt Publishing released Rena Effendi’s second monograph “Liquid Land”, a personal narrative, combining her father’s photographs of rare Azerbaijani butterflies with her images of environmentally devastated landscapes and people living among destruction in her native city of Baku.
2014 - World press photo observed portraits