A conservation and photographic series from Mustafah Abdulaziz.
Mustafah Abdulaziz | GERMANY
A picture may tell a 1,000 words but Mustafah Abdulaziz’s ‘Water’ series tells an intricate story lasting several years and intertwining 32 countries. After moving to Berlin in 2011, Mustafah embarked on the phenomenal task of documenting the world’s relationship with water, and in turn photographing global sustainable issues like deforestation and global warming.
Mustafah’s series provides his audience with the tools to create their own conclusions to the issues he photographs.
The series has gained international support and recognition from the United Nations, WWF, Google and WaterAid. ‘Water’ offers a glimpse into the multifaceted relationship each human has with water as well as the impact it has on communities. The images provide context on how water has become both a source of life and struggle for many third world countries.
In 2014 Mustafah turned the series into an internationally exhibited project to educate people about water and economic development. The exhibition, which travelled to Stockholm, London and New York, worked as an initiative in conjunction with three NGOs (Earth Watch, WWF and Water Aid).
The purpose was to create a space where people were forced to confront the issues the earth is having with water. Photography became a tool to communicate these issues to people who might not have to face them directly.
He hoped to demonstrate the concept that each countries interaction with water is extremely vital, no matter what race or continent they were from. It was the repetitive behaviours within each community that tied the series together. The images flow between wide shots of children swimming in the Paraguay River in Brazil to a portrait of a Nigerian farmer telling her story about the lack of clean water in her town.
One of the concepts Mustafah features within the exhibition is the behaviour people have in an environment where water is not challenged. Mustafah photographed people maintaining their beautiful gardens and excessive lawns, pinpointing the narcissistic behavioural trait that their direct environment is more important than the global or even state draught issue.
The stark contrast of this imagery displayed alongside photographs of other monumental sustainability issues like deforestation in Brazil and the supposed ‘sustainable’ fisheries in China, perfectly exhibit the complexity of humans relationship with water. Each beautiful image creates a discord of emotions that educates the viewer via a sense of shock as they indulge in the contrasts of baron landscape colours and the humans that populate them in bright traditional clothing.
Mustafah hopes that his images can inspire change in any audience that views them, that they take away the message that the same problems affect everyone in the same way, they are not only a problem for certain parts of the world.
The brutal reality of these images lingers with you as you carry on with your day. Through the menial task of washing your body, you realise the privilege you have to utilise your daily shower as an act of cleansing your mind. While you stand there tomorrow, having already washed every inch of your body and you turn the faucet to cut short the extra five minutes you normally would take to stand in the stream, you’ll realise Mustafah has successfully infiltrated the way you view water. This is exactly the purpose of the photographer, to inspire change in an audience that views the images. He hopes that they take away the message that the same problems affect everyone in the same way; they are not only a problem for certain parts of the world.
Mustafah Abdulaziz is an American photographer living in Berlin.
Water is the culmination of fifteen years of research and documentation.
Photographs by: Mustafah Abdulaziz
Words by: Caitlin Hennessy