Water in The Desert was my first photography project on medium format film.
It was in the sixties that the Russian Government decided to transform Uzbekistan in a cotton heaven. Canals were built using the water from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya, the two main rivers of the country, and the land became green.
Cotton exports became so important that the plant was included in the state emblem. On the other hand the Aral Sea started making it out of the map and with it the economy of the provincial capital Nukus (a surreal pristine city of empty squares and buildings that cannot be photographed) and the (once) harbour town of Moynak – now 200km away from the sea and a symbol of one of the biggest man-made environmental disasters on earth: the disappearance of the Aral Sea.
What is left of the sea is toxic to animal life and the decrease in the amount of water affected the region climate giving way to temperatures similar to Siberia in the winter and scorching heat during summers.
What started as a photographic journey to a disappearing Sea evolved into an essay about water, power and deceptive appearances in this Central Asia country.
Water is precious in an arid landscape. However, while traveling East to West in the country I was confronted with unexpected patches of green. Grass is manicured in the main cities, literally: men and women in front of government buildings or tourist attractions cut it leaf by leaf. A number of pompous fountains dot the city center of the capital Tashkent and are often present in front of austere government buildings. In the countryside, canals subtracting water to the nation two main rivers created a landscape of roadside cotton fields surrounded by deserts, but fountains are dry here just as they are round the corners of the main cities where the tourist gaze does not land.
Water always lacks where it should be.