Friday, October 5, 2012
‘Be daring and move!’ That’s what Azerbaijani photographer Rena Effendi impresses on the young journalists taking part in the multimedia workshop in Georgia. ‘If you want people to remember a photograph, it needs to have a marked political or social relevance. What I would like to teach the participants more than anything else is that you should not only try to offer people information, but above all touch their hearts.’

Effendi is one of the four trainers coaching the course participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In 2011, she won a Prince Claus Award for ‘Lives Behind', a portrait series focusing on people who are able to adapt to all manner of living conditions. Effendi has a strong passion for photography and is happy to share her enthusiasm and knowledge with others. Effendi: ‘For me, it’s always a special moment when students start to understand how visual language works. This language is universal and transcends cultural and national boundaries. It gives me great pleasure to see how students from three different countries that regularly clash with one another feel a connection with stories from all over the world.’

Effendi herself is a native of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Press freedom is very limited in her home country, and Azerbaijan is found in the lower end of the Press Freedom Index. Journalists who contradict the government’s positions are kidnapped, and the country works to keep out foreign reporters. Effendi: ‘The press in my country is not independent. The media primarily serves as a propaganda tool for the government and people have no faith in the press. I hope that in time, a new generation of professional journalists will stand up who focus on online media, and that the growth of the Internet will increase their impact.’ Free Press Unlimited aims to contribute to this development by organising multimedia trainings for young journalists in the Caucasus.

Back in her own country, Effendi has been far from idle. In the near future, she will be presenting her second book – a personal tale about herself and her father, a dissident lepidopterologist in the former Soviet Union. In ‘Liquid Land’, the photographer calls attention to the decaying suburbs of Baku, the city of her birth and the capital of Azerbaijan.