JTF (only facts): Posted in 2021 by FotoEvidence (here). Hardcover, 128 pages, with 50 color photos and 12 photos from the artist’s family archive. Includes texts by Amir Agakushak, Manushir Daghati, and the artist (in Persian, French and English). Designed by Fernanda Fajardo and Joao Linio. (Cover and post the shots below.)
Comments/Context: earth eyes This is a highly personal photo book about the environmental disaster by Iranian photographer Solmaz Daryani. Daryani shares a touching story about his upbringing on Lake Urmia located in northwestern Iran; Her family ran a hotel on the lake in the tourist port of Sharafkhana. For years, tourists from all over the country drove hours to the lake, which was then a thriving vacation destination. The lake has also attracted a wide variety of migratory birds, such as pelicans, ducks, flamingos, and herons. Lake Urmia used to be one of the largest natural saltwater lakes in the world, but in the past decades, the lake has dried up, shrunk in size and lost about 88 percent of its surface area. While climate change has certainly contributed to its degradation, poor water management (in the form of illegal wells, over-use of water, new dams, irrigation projects, etc.) is the main cause of drought. Today, Lake Urmia is barely a tenth of its original size.
earth eyes It is a landscape-oriented book, relatively small in size, and its presence creates an intimate picture book experience. The book stands out immediately with its bold cover – the features of the lake are engraved in brilliant red on the blue cover, and the lines indicate how the lake has shrunk over the years. A more detailed map of the lake is laid out on the final papers, and inside, the visual flow is closely intertwined with handwritten commentaries, guiding us through the narration.
The book begins with an essay by Amir Agha Koshak, professor of civil and environmental engineering, who recalls an emotional moment when he showed slides from the shrinking lake, memories of his childhood “from sailing in the lake and enjoying the wonderful nature of a lake.” area” and burst into tears in front of a large audience. This article follows the remembrance of another character by Manusher Deghati, who spent his summer childhood on Lake Urmia. “We, the children, would go swimming or donkey rides ourselves, because the place was safe and the salt water forbade even the uninhibited swimmer. The clever from drowning.” The writings put a very personal introduction to the following images.
An old black and white photo of a boat next to the pier begins visual narrative. The following spread shows a more recent image, possibly of the pier itself, but the water is now gone, and a rusty boat rests on dry land. Then, a small photo from 1969 took a sunny day on the lake with the locals in the water, and the adjacent shot on the right took the artist’s grandfather back in 1979, sitting on a rock by the lake while the sun reflected on the water. Throughout the book, Dariani blends photos from her family’s archives, blending happy memories of the lake with more recent snapshots. In the book’s layout, portions of images appear as thin lines and crops are placed on the edges of the pages, reinforcing the associated connection between the past and the present.
In one of the photos circulating in the book, Dariani pairs two photos: one taken by her father in 1992 showing a hull (used to repair ships in water) in the background surrounded by water, and a more recent photo from 2018 showing the same structure, but now with a salt-crusted landscape. The water is completely gone, and this strong juxtaposition captures the dramatic changes within a relatively short period of time. Another large horizontal image shows us a person walking through the dry lake area, columns covered with hardening salt standing as a reminder of the lake’s glorious past. Daryani’s semi-horrific photographs document the area’s deterioration: decaying sidewalks that today lead nowhere, rusty benches buried in the mud, and the now-abandoned concrete flamingo statue that used to be used to greet visitors.
The Iranian government has set up a national committee in an effort to restore the lake, and while some signs of recovery look promising, it will likely take decades before the lake can return to its healthy form. but pThe deceased hotos who were living around the lake hanging on the wall of a mosque in the port of Sharafkhaneh are more dangerous. The lake shaped the lives and identities of many people, and with its disappearance it left a deep emotional wound in people’s memory. Dariani dedicated the book to her grandmother, “an illiterate woman who knew the importance of a balance between man and nature and was able to plant more than 800 trees during her lifetime.” At the end of the book, a wide spread appears with all the images together, showing how they are laid out and edited, and additional notes link the entire narrative into one integrated visual story.
earth eyes It is a delicate picture book that reminds us of the fragility of our environment. As the impact of human activities grows more and more visible, artists are also becoming more personal, shifting from conceptual projects to more intimate and direct ones. Daryani’s work It brings to mind other personal accounts of the effects of climate change and other environmental degradation, such as Polish artist Małgorzata Stankiewicz’s illustrated book. echo cry (Revised here), taking a stand against logging in the Białowiea Forest, an ancient forest on the border between Poland and Belarus. Although their approaches differ, both books remind us of the unparalleled beauty of our planet as well as the dire consequences of irresponsible human activities. It is hoped that projects such as these, which make large-scale changes seem starkly personal, will encourage readers to think more deeply about our impact on the planet..
POV collector: Solmaz Daryani does not appear to have a consistent exhibition representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors will likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).