‘Azerbaijan Through the Lens’ wows an Istanbul audience

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More than 250 diplomats, celebrities and business people have attended the opening night of the 'Azerbaijan Through the Lens' exhibition in Istanbul, organised by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS).

ATTL Istanbul opens

The gallery was packed with attendees, eager to view the many facets of Azerbaijani life, culture and nature

Today’s exhibition will introduce you to the wonderful beauty of my homeland – Azerbaijan – and its rich cultural heritage, where Eastern and Western values unite.

On 20 November, more than 250 diplomats, celebrities and business people packed the Riff Art Projects gallery in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul. This edition of the 'Azerbaijan Through the Lens' exhibition, organised by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), showcased 100 photographs of contemporary Azerbaijani people, culture, landscapes and architecture. Attendees included Ms. Ece Vahapoglu, the renowned Turkish author, journalist and television personality; Rena Effendi, acclaimed Azerbaijani photographer; and Asim Talib, winner of the competition. Rena Rzaeva, TEAS Turkey representative, initially welcomed the guests.

Ece Vahapoglu said: “The winner was Asim Talib for his photo 'Old Men'. Asim has been a renowned professional photographer in Azerbaijan for many years, focusing on landscapes and people. Certain regions of Azerbaijan are renowned for being home to some very elderly people. Taken in 1985, this picture shows a group of elders enjoying a joke. It was photographed in Kelbajar, which has now been under Armenian occupation for 20 years.

“Another photographer whose work is showcased in this exhibition, and who joined us tonight from Cairo, is Rena Effendi. Her first monograph 'Pipe Dreams', focused on the lives of ordinary citizens in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey along the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline. Ms Effendi has also produced photographic essays from Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster of 1986 and the Russo–Georgian war of 2008. Indeed her work was displayed earlier this year, just five minutes from here, at the Istanbul Modern Gallery. There is certainly a wide choice of photographs for us to enjoy.”

Rena Rzaeva remarked: “Today’s exhibition will introduce you to the wonderful beauty of my homeland – Azerbaijan – and its rich cultural heritage, where Eastern and Western values unite. The photographs range from historical monuments, architectural gems and stunning landscapes taken in cities, remote villages and capture the warmth of the people.

“Indeed, given the strong historical and cultural bonds between Turks and Azerbaijanis, some of these images may already be familiar to you, such as the gentlemen playing backgammon or images of the tea houses. We hope that the natural beauty and charm of Azerbaijan, as captured in these photographs, will inspire those who have not visited the country to do so.”

Concluding its tour of the cities where TEAS has offices, the exhibition was originally presented in different formats in London in November 2012 and Paris and Brussels in March and June 2013. The photographs were selected from around 750 submissions received from photographers based in Azerbaijan and across the world that were entered for a TEAS-run competition. The exhibition succeeded in representing the very essence of this fascinating country, which sits on the Caspian Sea. All of those who attended were entranced by the views of this country and the remarkable quality of the images.

Sitting alongside renowned royal photographer Henry Dallal on the judging panel was Caroline Metcalfe, Photographic Director, Condé Nast Traveller magazine. In addition to Asim Talib’s winning photograph, second prize was taken by an amazing representation of the ceiling of the Bibi Heybat Mosque by Etibar Jafarov. Originally constructed in the 13th Century, and visited by author Alexandre Dumas in the 1840s, this was destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936. Following the regaining of Azerbaijani independence, the reconstructed mosque was reopened in 1997.

Fuad Babayev took the photograph that received the third prize – 'The Flames and the Needle'. This focused on the Flame Towers, a new icon of Baku, juxtaposed against the telecom tower. A keen amateur photographer, Fuad has embraced social media and currently has more than 10,000 followers on Google+.

A selection of images from the exhibition can be seen at http://www.teas.eu/azerbaijan-through-the-lens.

21–30 November
Azerbaijan Through the Lens: Photography Exhibition (Turkey)
Riff Art Projects, Firuzaga Mah, Defterdar Yokusu No.1, Tophane, Beyoglu, Istanbul
Tuesday–Saturday: 11.00–12.30hrs/13.30–19.00hrs
Mondays by appointment only.

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