A Dearth of Documentary
Recently, Today.Az interviewed Rena Effendi, a photographer I highlighted here with her recent photo collection chronicling the lives of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. The interview is a pretty good read, getting to know Rena and her adventure into photography (including a story about descending into mineshafts in Russia!) A point I’d like to highlight comes a little later in the interview, in the response to a question about working with customers:
…As for Azerbaijan, we have no magazine except “Baku” which work professionally with documentary photographers. All the magazines in our country are filled with glamor. Commercial, advertising photography are also thriving and there is absolutely no place for documentary. I would have worked with our media if what I do was required for them.
That’s a fairly basic, but clarifying, point. There’s no doubt that media in Azerbaijan is lacking when it comes to things like documenting the lives of people here. Instead, even for the biggest media outlets, the main subject matter includes only celebrity and disaster. For magazines, there are various newspaper stands around Lənkəran that offer magazines and papers. Plastered all over them are pictures of celebrities. There is nothing about life for Azerbaijanis. It’s all about the lives of the rich and famous. There are a few papers that might be worth reading, but even they don’t really have a good quality of research and analysis.
And for an extremely literate society, there is very little reading going on, anyways. TV is the main source of this celebrity and disaster that permeates media. There is the celebrity that surrounds various politicians, singers, and TV personalities; and there is the fascination with disaster such as car crashes, gas explosions, and Karabakh transgressions. Imagine taking CNN’s Headline News and reducing the headlines to even less substantial headlines. Then take out all the relevant statistics and interviews. That is the definition of media here. As Rena commented, there is no room for documentary.