Berlin photographic exhibition captures the plight of Azerbaijan’s IDPs and refugees

Press Release: Philipp Rathmer is an excellent photojournalist, and this is particularly evident in his remarkable new exhibition, entitled Five Roads Back Home, which runs at Epicentro in Berlin from 12–15 October, organised by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). The opening on 11 October was attended by over 500 leading figures from the media, arts, and society.

The 50 photographs capture the ongoing plight of some of the 875,000 refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions. Despite four UN Security Council Resolutions being passed against the Armenian military occupation nearly 20 years ago, these people continue to live in camps across the country.

Philipp recalled: “In July 2012, I spent one week visiting IDPs and refugees in the Azerbaijani towns of Takhtakorpu and Gunzali, near the Armenian border, and Darnagul and Gizigum, located north of Baku. Throughout, I aimed to represent the suffering of these people by focusing on their faces in extreme close-up. Each subject was shot in exactly the same way, against a black background, lit in indirect sunlight, emphasis being placed on capturing the faces and stories of the people. You can see the problems in their eyes and wrinkles.

“The focus was on the human situation ­– I noted each subject’s name, age, occupation, name of the camp in which they lived and the town from which they had been displaced. They also spoke of their aspirations, one of which was common to all – they wanted to return home. The subjects were aged from six to 86 years, so some have never even seen their homeland.”

Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, said: “Many people are unaware that Azerbaijan contains the greatest proportion of IDPs in the world, and that nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani lands remain under occupation. The IDPs and refugees will not see the direct results of this exhibition, but they now realise that people outside of Azerbaijan actually care about them and understand that they have the right to return to their lands.”

Following this, a short film was screened about the Five Roads Back Home project, and the exhibition catalogue was launched. Five Roads Back Home may be presented in London, Paris, Brussels, Istanbul and Baku during the next few months.