In 2012, Mustafah Abdulaziz started the ongoing long-term project Water, which deals with the changes in global landscapes caused by the dramatically dwindling element of water and the resulting deprivation of resources for humans and nature. For the photographer the starting point to deal with anthropogenic landscapes because of climatic changes was the confrontation with a United Nations (UN) statistic, which predicted that 3.4 billion people would be affected by a lack of water by 2025. The series is thus conceived as a holistic form of photographic topography of a natural resource in crisis and envisages making people around the world aware of the existential significance of the element of water and inspiring them to understand global contexts. Structured into chapters, the project reflects our complex relationship with water, how we use and abuse it, in order to understand our participation in one of the greatest global challenges of our time. In doing so, he focuses on landscape transformation processes and their visual manifestations, as well as on the elementary and multilayered interconnectedness of humankind to this most important basic element. Water as a life-sustaining resource, as a basis for nature, animals and humans, as well as its levels of meaning in spiritual, religious and social contexts are tangible in Abdulaziz’s documentary and epic images. The aesthetics of his photographs, which often show broad landscapes with relatively small people, invite you to let your eyes wander through these miniatures and to grasp their details as well as their compositional entirety. Aesthetic experience and dimensions of content prove to be dissonant here. The dissonant moment related to the aesthetic appearance and the existential theme occurs where the viewer’s attention is attracted by the visual beauty of the large color photographs and, in the immediate handling, is confronted with the contradictions and complexities of our reality. It is not the visual appearance of the photo that scares us, but becoming aware that the photographic recording of the appearance of a place often does not allow us to recognize the causalities that characterize it, but rather veils it aesthetically. Abdulaziz’s photographs combine the concepts of document, criticism and aesthetics. By intensively grappling with a globally present topic, we, as viewers, are directly put into relation with all those places and people and are provoked to think about questions of global responsibility.
Nadine Isabelle Henrich