In 2012, Sierra Leone suffered a devastating outbreak of cholera, which affected tens of thousands of people and killed more than 200. At the center of the disaster was water. Exacerbated by the rainy season, the disease was transmitted through drinking water and unsanitary conditions. The overcrowded slums of Freetown, the capital, became a breeding ground for the outbreak, where having safe water made the difference between life and death. It was there that American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz took the shots that would plunge him into an intensive exploration of water and its perils. Set to last four years and take him to 32 countries, the project looks at humans’ relationship with a natural resource in crisis, from scarcity to natural disasters, from its role in how we worship to where we live. The photographs shown here are from India, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. He spoke to R&K from his home in Berlin.
Roads & Kingdoms: What do you see when you look at water?
Mustafah Abdulaziz: [Water] transcends simple classification. This project is less a reportage of the impending water crisis as it is a contemporary reflection of how we as a species are interacting with the most fundamental element for all life on Earth. What are we doing to our water and what is water doing to us? Between these two points is where my project seeks to provide questions and commentary. To show the surreality of how we’re underestimating the most critical issue of our time and what it costs to the people on either end of the spectrum – from the world’s poor who will end up suffering the brunt of any global water crisis, to the developed nations and their effect on the quality and existence of our fresh water supplies.
R&K: What are some examples of those issues?
Abdulaziz: This project is about water in as many facets as I can tackle in the next four years. Not just drinking water. The larger picture, of hydroelectric damming, agriculture, recreation, rising sea levels and disappearing islands, natural disasters and desalination.