“A lake is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” Henry David Thoreau
Iran is facing severe water scarcity. Drought, rising water demand, degradation put pressure on society and leads to wider injustice and a big social/political crisis not only inside Iran but also with neighbouring countries. I grow up beside Lake Urmia which was once the largest lake in the Middle East, and the second largest salt lake on the planet. The nearly six million people who live in the Urmia basin have deep social and economic ties with this shrinking body of water. The Turk-Azeri people, who live around the lake, treasure it as a symbol of their identity, calling it “the turquoise solitaire of Azerbaijan.”
Photo: Solmaz Daryani
Once a thriving tourist destination, Lake Urmia provided a livelihood to countless people, including my mother’s family. My grandfather ran a lakefront motel in the touristy port city of Sharafkhaneh, where my grandparents still live today, and my uncles were sailors. Less than a decade ago, my grandfather hosted dozens of tourists a day in the summers. I spent all my childhood summers on the shore of the salt lake in my grandparents’ house. When the lake was still a popular destination, bathers would immerse themselves in the saline water and smear their bodies with its legendary black mud. I cherish those memories and still remember the sound of the waves, the chatter of beachside vacationers, the sulphur smell of the dark mud, and the salty breeze in the mid-afternoon heat.
Salt lake Urmia a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, during the past three decades, has lost about 88 per cent of its surface area due to increasing temperatures, changing climate, excessive damming and overuse of underground water by locals and booming agriculture in the region. This precious body of water is a victim of humanmade drought.
As Lake Urmia dried up, local tourism and agriculture suffered. Winds that whip across the lake blow salt dust to farm fields, slowly rendering the soil infertile. Like so many other people around the lake, my grandfather’s motel and gardens now lie in ruins. The port town is now a sparsely populated village that young people flee for nearby cities, and most of the residents who have stayed are elderly. Neither port town nor salt lake resembles the place of my childhood memories.
In this long term and personal story that I started in 2014, I tried to demonstrate the impacts of drying of Urmia Lake on my own family, ecosystem and people living around it to reflect the interconnectedness of humans and the environment.
The vanishing of Lake Urmia is much more than an environmental hazard; it is an emotional wound in the memory of people. For those of us who remember what this place once was, the lake is much more than a receding blue spot on the world map. It is a part of our identity, and we can only hope that it does not vanish forever.
The Eyes of Earth is dedicated to Narges Qasempoor, Solmaz' grandmother. An illiterate woman who knew the importance of balance between humans and nature and managed to plant 800 trees during her lifetime. She died from Covid-19 during the process of creating the book.
The W Award:
The FotoEvidence Women award is devoted to engaged women photographers who want to tell their personal stories in the form of a photo book. Through their lenses women can shape the world differently and we want to give them this chance. During the past ten years, FotoEvidence has published 27 books to draw attention to human rights violations, oppression and assaults on human dignity wherever they may occur. At this moment, women around the world are seeking equal rights and equal opportunity. FotoEvidence Women will support this global movement.
The FotoEvidence W Award for Personal Story will be granted by an international jury to one woman whose work merits a book. The hardbound book will be published by FotoEvidence. Two other photographers will receive honorable mentions.
The FotoEvidence W Award is supported by the Grodzins Fund and the VII Foundation.
Submission period: September 1st- October 1st, 2020
The jury reserves the right to not award a grant in any given year if they determine that no candidate has met the criteria. The winner of The W Award will be announced on the 28th January, 2021 at the FotoEvidence website.Submission Requirements:• The W Award is open to all adult women photographers and women photographer collectives.• Submit up to 15 images from one project. If you are selected for the award you will be asked to submit 100-120 photographs on the same topic.• Submissions are free with an option for suggested donation of $20. This year is challenging for all of us and we'll appreciate your donation. Contributions collected during the submission process support the production of the winning book. Jury members do not know who has contributed and who has not.The W Award is governed by FotoEvidence's terms and conditions. Please review the terms and conditions before submitting. During the submission process you will be asked to confirm that you have read and agreed to the terms and conditions.If you experience difficulties submitting your work please contact technical support at Nabeel@fotoevidence.com
How to Submit:To enter the FotoEvidence Women Award register here.Once your registration has been conﬁrmed, you will be asked to follow submission procedures:• Fifteen photographs with titles and captions. Photographs without captions in the file info will be rejected.• Each image should be 72 dpi and 1024 pixels on the longest side. (The system will reject bigger files). o RGB modeo JPEG formato Maximum qualityo Filename: Lastname_Firstname_ project title e.g. Smith_Jane_Women at Work• A WORD document with your statement of up to 1500 words about the work.Tell us how do you envision the book.• Resume/CV• Entry fee: Free to submit with a suggested donation of $20. (Jury members do not receive information about contributions.)• If you have a PDF of the work already developed as a book concept and you want to share it with us on addition to your application please contact Andrea Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.orgAll applications should be based on a long-term projects and should reflect the personal experince of the photographer. All photographic media are accepted.Photographers may submit more than one portfolio. A separate application is required for each entry.Please check the box that indicates you have read and agreed to the terms and conditions.For problems with The W Award submission, contact: email@example.com
Deadline and Timeframe:Submissions for the 2020 W Award must be received between September 1st and October 1st 2020 (23:59:59) CETThe winner of the W Award will be announced on the 28th January 2021 at the FotoEvidence website.
All published images will be credited with the photographer’s name. Copyright and ownership of photographs remain with the photographer/photographers at all times. Entrants agree to grant FotoEvidence permission to use submitted work for promotional purposes in any electronic media, printed materials, or advertising, to be reproduced in third-party newspapers and magazines (printed and electronic) solely for the purpose of promoting the work, the photographer, FotoEvidence and The W Award.
The W Award prize winner(s) agree to the publication of their photographs as FotoEvidence hard bound books under the terms of the FotoEvidence book contract.
FotoEvidence team will collaborate with the photographer on editorial decisions in the development and publication of the book. Photographers will receive 25 complimentary copies of the book.
FotoEvidence reserves the right to reject entries that are not submitted properly. Submissions should come directly from artists or organizations. No exceptions will be made for late submissions.
The jury reserves the right to not award a grant in any given year if they determine that no candidate has met the criteria.
Charlotte Schmitz wins the inaugural 2019 FotoEvidence W Award with her work La Puente.
Honorable mentions: Hannah Kozak with He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard and Stacy Kranitz with Fulcrum of Malice
June 11, 2019 Svetlana Bachevanova, publisher of FotoEvidence, announced that photographer Charlotte Schmitz will receive the first FotoEvidence W Award and that her work La Puente will be published by FotoEvidence.