Mahdi Barchian photographs the unthinkable: life without water.
In Iran, a seven-year drought has left it scrambling for water sources. The New York Times reported in December on other factors contributing to the water crisis, including inefficient irrigation methods and a dam system that has recently directed water away from areas where it used to be plentiful. And as Iran’s groundwater supply dwindles — 70 percent of it has been used in the past 50 years — conditions are growing more dire by the month.
Barchian, who is based in Gorgan, Iran, first traveled to photograph the Hamoun Lake region two years ago for his series “Living With Dry Hope.” Located near the country’s eastern border with Afghanistan, the area once held Iran’s third-largest lake and a thriving ecosystem of interconnected wetlands.
Now, drought has robbed the area’s residents of their livelihoods, and those that have not yet left are scrambling to survive. Barchian said he wanted to document this crisis on an individual level. “Many people lost their home, family and live in very bad situation,” he said in an email. “They had everything and now … they don’t have anything. I try to show their life and hope first people see and think about life without water.”
As a photographer, Barchian felt a responsibility to bring more visibility to environmental problems in Iran, he said. “I think photography is one of the best ways for learning [about] people. As a photographer you just show truth — people see and can feel without words,” he said. “Environmental problems are important for all people in the world. I think photographers must try to show our world is in a bad situation today.”
See more of Barchian’s work on the series below.
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