Rena Effendi grew up in the USSR witnessing her country’s rough path to independence, one marred by war, political instability and economic collapse. Educated as a linguist, she took her first photographs in 2001 after attending private painting classes. Ever since, she has photographed issues of conflict, social justice and the oil industry’s effects on people and the environment.
From 2002 to 2008, she followed a 1,700 km pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey documenting the impact this multibillion dollar project had on the impoverished farmers, fishermen and other citizens. Close to a hundred million dollars worth of oil is pumped daily to the West, however the people above ground live in desolation and despair in the shadow of false promises by governments and corporations to improve their lives. This six-year journey became her first book, Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives Along the Pipeline (2009). The project received numerous awards including: the Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography (2009), the Fifty Crows International Fund Award and the Magnum Foundation Caucasus Photographer Award. Pipe Dreams was exhibited at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007), the 2009 Istanbul Biennial and the Breda’s Museum (2010) amongst others.
Since 2007, she has covered a wide range of stories in the post-Soviet region together with Turkey and Iran, including the 2008 Russia- Georgia conflict, female victims of heroin and sex trafficking in Kyrgyzstan and survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In 2008, Rena received The National Geographic All Roads Photography Award for her portrayal of the disappearing culture of the Khinaliq village in the mountains of Azerbaijan. This work was exhibited in Washington DC and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
In 2011, Rena Effendi received the Prince Claus Fund Award for Cultural Development and moved to Cairo where she currently focuses on issues surrounding the Egyptian Christian Coptic minority in the post-revolution era; for this project, she received a grant from the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund.