Rena Effendi

Rena Effendi uses her camera to document people and cultures, as well as issues of conflict, environment, and social justice. Effendi was born in Azerbaijan and witnessed her country's rough path to independence from the U.S.S.R., a place she learned to make sense of through photography.

Her first book, Pipe Dreams, documented her journey along a 1,056-mile (1,700 km) oil pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, collecting stories along the way. Her second major project, Liquid Land, paired her images with photographs of perished butterflies hunted by her father, a Soviet-era entomologist.

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As a storyteller I am most passionate about documenting our threatened cultural heritage, capturing the essence and beauty of people and places before they vanish from the face of humanity.

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. She was a Prince Claus Laureate for Culture and Development and was shortlisted for the prestigious Prix Pictet award in photography and sustainability. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide including at the Saatchi Gallery, Miami Art Basel, and the 52nd Venice Biennial. Apart from her assignments for National Geographic, she has worked for The New Yorker, Newsweek, TIME, Vogue, and The New York Times Magazine, among others.

She lives in Istanbul, Turkey.

Find out about upcoming programs and expeditions with National Geographic photographers, or view more work by Rena Effendi.