In Azerbaijani Stories the photographer Onur Tatar had created what he calls composite portraits. These are the stories of ten people from Azerbaijan combined with their portraits and images of places of significance.
As Tatar says, topography, or the arrangement of both natural and artificial physical features of an area, fluctuates almost as much as people do. People go through experiences every day of their lives, they encounter elating and heartbreaking moments or moments that are hard to define as singularly positive or negative, and every single experience informs the people we are. It forms the layers of our lives and character. As this happens to everybody, the cumulative sum of all the individual experiences of people who occupy the same chunk of land would inevitably have an impact on the physical features of the land itself.
“ Azerbaijan, located in the Caucasus, is one of these topographies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan began to fluctuate in terms of socio-economic and social structure. Sad events with Armenia, which took place in the west side of the country are hidden in the layers of the topography. Each layer that creates the topography is formed by these ‘fluctuations’. In Azerbaijani Stories Onur Tatar brings the layers of Azerbaijan topography together with encountered human stories during the journey from Baku to Naftalan. “
Every story gathered is unique in its own right, but also falls under the same umbrella as a story from this particular country. It represents the contrast between East Azerbaijan, a place that is barren but with rich oil resources, and West Azerbaijan, a much wealthier area. A dentist in a blue apron is juxtaposed with barbed wire and a basic, crudely-built wooden bench with a pair of black wellies by the side. An old man wearing a suit and a black eye patch is side by side with closeups of his hands holding images of horrific violence.
The project introduces the viewers not only to the stories but to the country’s culture and its physical features, a markedly different place from the West. Azerbaijani Stories poses more questions than it provides answers. Just how deep do the repercussions from the fall of the Soviet Union run? Will the country ever recover? How many more of these hidden stories are there, in Azerbaijan, but also all over the world? Every single citizen is unique in terms of their understanding of the world and lived experiences and it makes one wonder just how many wonderfully interesting stories worth telling there are out there that will probably never see the light of day, unless someone asks.
— foreword by Zak R. Dimitrov
Topography can fluctuate just like people. People fluctuate between things as a result of the events they had lived and therefore the layers of their lives are formed. The place, that is to say, the geography accumulates these layers throughout the years.
Azerbaijan, located in the Caucasus, is one of these topographies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan began to fluctuate in terms of socio-economic and social structure. Sad events with Armenia, which took place in the west side of the country are hidden in the layers of the topography.
Each layer that creates the topography is formed by these ‘fluctuations’. In ‘Azerbaijani Stories’ Onur TATAR brings the layers of Azerbaijan topography together with encountered human stories during the journey from Baku to Naftalan.
‘Azerbaijani Stories’ consists of 10 stories encountered during a journey from the capital on the Caspian coast to Naftalan located on the border with Armenia.
Each story about Azerbaijan consists of portraits and photographs that complete it. These composite portraits bring east of the country containing barren but rich oil resources and the rich but painful western topography together by human stories. Each story encountered in this journey from Baku to Naftalan gives the contrast structure of geography. The intersection point of the stories is the photographs of the topography fluctuating towards the east of the country.
Born in 1989. One of the 3 dentists in Hangervend Village of 7000 households, 15 km from Naftalan. There are livestock and fruit trees in the garden of the village house where the clinic is located.
He was born in 1983 in Sumqayit. Azerbaijan's famous cinema and theater actor Mustafayev is acting in the Academic National Drama Theater in Baku. In 2011, he was awarded the title of “the best actor of the year” by the Ministry of Civilization and Tourism.
Born in 1958. He joined the war in October 1993, despite the opposition of his wife. His mother played a big role in Muharremov's voluntary participation in the war. In April 1994, 6 months after his mother sent Muharremov to war by saying "Men protects the land," he is injured in the conflict which was in the Agdere region of Karabakh.
He was unconscious after being shot, while a close friend dragged her out of the line of fire. After that he regained consciousness at the hospital and he realized that he cannot open his left eye. He learned the moment of the conflict from the detailed video taken by Azerbaijan State Television. After that, hard days come and he has psychological problems. He lives with his wife in a village near the border.
He was born in 1950 in Yerevan. He moved from Yerevan to Baku in 1968 to study. While studying at Azerbaijan Polytechnic University, he became interested in cinema and started taking photographs in 1975. At the same time, he learned the use of light from the Russians. After that, he started working at Cafer Cabbarlı Azerbaijan State Cinema Studios.
In his 43 years of working life, he has been in Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia and Russia for work. During the Soviet period, he served as a deputate for 5 years. He had the opportunity to work at Mosfilm, where directors such as Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein also shot. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he took part in a movie about Heydar Aliyev in Sumgait in 1991. While drinking the plum vodka he made himself, he is remembering the Soviet era.