Photo essay: Women at risk in central Asia's heroin highway
December 17, 2009 8:30 PM   Subscribe

House of Happiness - photos by Rena Effendi of women in the Ferghana Valley, part of central Asia's ancient Silk Route now known as "the heroin highway" - "a geographical and cultural mishmash where three countries and many ethnicities cluster." More about the photos. (Some photos NSFW)

Rena Effendi is an Azerbaijan-born social documentary photographer focusing on post-Soviet and postwar melding of cultures and the oil industry's effects on people. Her site includes a generous sampling of selections from her book Pipedreams, a chronicle of lives along the pipeline in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Really, all the photo essays in her portfolio are well worth exploring - I particularly liked the Xinaliq wedding series, Twenty-something in Tehran and the powerful series on the Georgia conflict.

Warning: As many photographer's portfolios are wont to be, her site is in flash so avoid it if that bugs you.
posted by madamjujujive (14 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I love the posters on some of their walls. It really gives you a sense of the cultural divide between them and the Western-oriented world.
posted by elder18 at 8:40 PM on December 17, 2009

Began composing a post on Effendi yesterday having watched her in conversation about her recent book Pipe Dreams - A chronicle of lives along the pipeline, her pics taken along the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in her native Azerbaijan. Thanks for this mjj.
posted by Abiezer at 8:45 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm very confused. This claims to be a photographer's site, but the design is extremely simple, understated, and effective. There isn't any weird horizontal scrolling or crazy flash. Yes, there is a frame but it's subtle and not in-your-face annoying.

My worldview has been shattered. Are we sure this isn't someone stealing the photographer's photos?
posted by Justinian at 10:20 PM on December 17, 2009 [11 favorites]

Fantastic. Thank you.
posted by basicchannel at 10:33 PM on December 17, 2009

Great work, thanks.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:35 PM on December 17, 2009

Justinian is a very bad person, and quite funnny.

These are great, thanks.
posted by Artw at 11:23 PM on December 17, 2009

"In the conservative societies of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which raise girls to be wives and mothers, women are not empowered. Their lack of quality education and absolute dependence on men both economically and culturally makes them more vulnerable to the risks of drug use and sex trafficking. In this particular milieu where marriage is a cult, and divorce a stigma, women are not prepared to handle, let alone live, independent lives."

I know this is reductive but I feel like that worldview is neatly encapsulated in these photographs by the fact that most women wear more traditional clothes while men wear Western clothing.

"Much of the poorer quality heroin lands in urban centers such as Osh, a city in southern Kyrgyzstan, feeding the ever-growing addiction rates there. In the post-Soviet economic ruin, Kyrgyzstan's per capita income is second lowest in the CIS region after Tajikistan. Staggering poverty - resulting in rampant drug crime, prostitution, and a concomitant and spiraling HIV rate are the modern day ingredients to this Central Asian cocktail."

This isn't exclusively a "heroin highway" phenomenon but a feature of life in globalized, post-industrial societies. And not to be one of those guys who relates everything to The Wire, but... from the interview with Wire co-creator David Simon that's linked from the front page:

"When you no longer have a trade, then you ache for meaning in a way that strikes to the very core of your being. It’s something that I think a lot of people don’t understand about people in the drug trade or people in the throes of addiction, which is that the choice not only offers them money. From the point of view of people getting high, it offers them purpose.


"Every dope fiend I ever met knew what he was supposed to do when he woke up in the morning in just the same way that anybody with any other profession ever does. He was supposed to get $10 in a world that didn’t want to give him shit. He was supposed to get high and he needed $10 at the end of the day at a minimum."
posted by Kattullus at 1:49 AM on December 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Thanks MJJ; I had just read this essay Tijuana of the Caspian which is a neat compliment to some of the photo series.
posted by adamvasco at 1:56 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great stuff.
posted by caddis at 2:49 AM on December 18, 2009

Nice photos, and surprisingly nice site design.
posted by Forktine at 6:50 AM on December 18, 2009

In an alternate universe somewhere I'm sure this was a Frida Kahlo painting.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:57 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is really wonderful, thanks!
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 AM on December 18, 2009

Wow. Thanks, mjjj.

My mind? It is blown.
posted by Lynsey at 9:17 AM on December 18, 2009

the site's blog is rich thank you
posted by infini at 11:20 AM on December 18, 2009

« Older ...And Justice For All   |   Twitter Hacked Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments