Since 2011, Brooklyn-raised photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz has traveled to nine countries for his long-term photographic project, “Water,” highlighting the global water crisis. This summer, he focused on New York's waterways and water challenges. The resulting images, along with images from around the world (including Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan, India and China), will be shown in “Water Stories,” an open-air solo exhibition. This show, his first in New York, will be part of Photoville, a free photography festival in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The 68 images will be presented in massive light boxes along the East River, one of New York's most important bodies of water, and will be visible from Manhattan.
The exhibition is the result of a collaboration with the HSBC Water Program — a partnership between HSBC, Earthwatch, WaterAid and WWF. The exhibition coincides with NYC Climate Week, further highlighting the growing water challenges across the country and the world.
Abdulaziz has captured people and places affected by water challenges, including New York, with a focus on understanding and improving the city's water quality for future generations; the city of São Paulo, Brazil, where just two polluted rivers provide water for 21 million people; the poisoned marigold fields of Kanpur, India; shrimp fishermen at dawn on the restored Lake Hong, China; the barren river bed of the Ganges, India; and brightly dressed women hauling water from a 150-foot-deep well, a three hours’ walk from their home in Pakistan.
Mustafah's work, displayed for the first time at Photoville, includes landscapes scarred by deforestation in Brazil and barriers to development such as conflict and inaccessibility in Nigeria. It also includes previously unseen images of the many levels of New York City's water sources, from the air above the city n to the dark underground of Manhattan’s sewers.
The exhibition also includes portraits of individuals working to improve their local environment: the female mason building toilets in Kanpur, India; the former hunter, Zhang, who now protects wildlife around Lake Hong in China; and the volunteer citizen scientists who gather data on freshwater quality in New York City.
Collectively, the photographs chart the diverse and far-reaching effects of urbanization, poor sanitation, pollution, water scarcity and the side effects of expanding industry and population.
As the world becomes more populous and industrialized, water quality is declining , threatening human health and freshwater species, which have declined by 76 percent since the 1970s. Presently, 650 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water, while 2.3 billion people live without access to basic sanitation. The United Nations has warned that our planet is facing a 40 percent shortfall in water supply by 2030.
World leaders signed 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development in September 2015. Goal 6 calls for ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Mustafah Abdulaziz is an American documentary photographer based in Berlin. His ongoing project 'Water' has received support from the United Nations and VSCO. In 2012, he was named one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch and was the winner of the Syngenta photography award in 2015.
Mustafah Abdulaziz’s “Water Stories” exhibition opens Wednesday, Sept. 21, and will be on view in Brooklyn Bridge Plaza in Brooklyn through Oct. 12, as part of Photoville 2016, which runs Sept. 21 to 25.