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Rena Effendi

Spirit Lake


Spirit Lake is an intimate portrayal of a Native American reservation in North Dakota, delving deep into the complex social issues of this marginalized population. Through the microcosm of one community the video installation shows life in a forgotten land, outside of time, inside of America – fragile as it is.

Located in an isolated and economically languishing area, Spirit Lake is home to about 2000 inhabitants who grapple with the recurrent trauma of sexual abuse. The effects of this trauma trickle down to the next generation raised amidst poverty, chronically high unemployment, substance abuse, depression and the suicide rate one of the highest in the country. But the most chilling statistics on Spirit Lake is that for every 59 residents on the reservation, there is at least one registered sex offender. While families struggle to protect their children from abuse, the familial bonds remain strong and traditional spiritual healing practices play a pivotal role in recovering from trauma.

Rena Effendi (b. Azerbaijan) uses her camera to document people and cultures, as well as issues of conflict, environment, and social justice. Her early work focused on oil industry’s effects on people’s lives. Her first book, Pipe Dreams (2009) documented a 1,700 km oil pipeline that runs through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. In Effendi’s second monograph Liquid Land (2013) her images are paired with photographs of perished butterflies collected by her father, a Soviet entomologist.

Effendi is the recipient of the Alexia 2018 Professional Grant, Prince Claus Fund Award for Culture and Development, Getty Images Editorial Grant, World Press Photo, SONY World Photography Awards, and was short-listed for the Prix Pictet Award. Rena’s work has been exhibited worldwide including the Saatchi Gallery, Miami Art Basel, Istanbul Modern, and the 52nd Venice Biennial. She has contributed to the National Geographic, The New Yorker, Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times magazine, Vogue, Marie Claire, The Sunday Times, GEO and others.

She is based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Directed by Rena Effendi
Cinematography by Mikhail Galustov
Additional cinematography Rena Effendi
Edited by Kaya Behkalam