Even though we slowly seem to be deviating from a Western or Eurocentric mindset, there still is a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding about the countries in the so-called (semi-)periphery. Creativity exists everywhere, as do beauty, hope, love, surprise, grief, and misery. Especially in a place such as Azerbaijan, which seems to be getting an unfair biased coverage in Western press, it is important to provide a platform to prove this.
Azerbaijan’s capital Baku has an interesting underground scene of writers, actors, photographers, and other artists, whom, despite the repressive regime, want to show what’s going on behind the glitzy façade. As a photo often speaks more to the imagination, and also just because some of these shots are plainly captivating, we have been following some Azerbaijani photographers – all of whom we think have a massive potential and represent the contemporary creativity, hope, beauty, and everyday happenings in this South Caucasian country.
Baku-born Ehtiram is particularly interested in documenting the change of Azerbaijan’s capital, which you may have seen in the wonderful photo essay he did for us. This change affects social and economic life in Baku, which he manages to document in a touching and striking manner. However, as an all-round photographer, Ehtiram comfortably shoots streetscapes and portraits as well as the occasional landscape and football match. His work has been featured in media such as Bird in Flight, and his photos were displayed at exhibitions in Russia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Moreover, he works as a photo journalist for the likes of Reuters and RFE/RL and has won several awards for his work. We are just happy and humbled to publish his fantastic shots, and follow him with great anticipation.
Rasul recognizes a great image when he comes across one. Composition, light and shade, the right balance of colour: all his photos represent proportion, and everything seems to make sense. Easy on the eye and stirring emotions simultaneously, Rasul’s work focuses on everyday life situations as well as settings that seem to have been staged – that’s how perfect they are. One aspect he excels in is shadows, and as most of his photos were taken in the South Caucasus, they reflect the hidden, the calm, the colourful, and the crazy of this photogenic part of the world. Rasul never seizes to amaze, captivate, and leave us wanting more of his brilliant vision.
Often understated, sometimes surprising, but always equally beautiful, Elshan’s work takes us on a visual journey around Azerbaijan, and through Baku in particular. With clean lines and the placement on point, his photography is often colourful, and his arrangements visually satisfying. With toned-down and subtle photos, which, mind you, are anything but boring, he caught our attention and made us fans for life. This freelance photographer from Quba knows how tell a story with images, and his Instagram feed invites and tempts you to just keep scrolling further down and down… until you realize you want to visit the country and just see it all for yourself.
Eltaj mostly is interested in human emotions in all their different manifestations. This is evident from his work, most of it with a raw and slightly haunting edge. Mainly working in black and white, he believes this allows him to get closer to his subject. As a result, it makes the images more real and confrontational, and the quality of his work more consistent. As a proud receiver of awards both in Azerbaijan and abroad, and having showcased his intense photography in private as well as public collections, he is one of those photographers with a very distinct personal style. He keeps giving his audience something to see, something to guess about, and an endless collection of human bodies and faces to analyze. Moreover, Eltaj does not shy away from documenting disabled people, whether mentally or physically, and therefore, as he likes to think, presents his audience basically just with one thing: reality.