Pearl of Iran

Farshid Tighehsez

Iran

  • A parked car belonging to a family who has come to see the lake

    A parked car belonging to a family who has come to see the lake. 2011.

  • View of the lake from Islamic Island

    View of the lake from Islamic Island. Construction of this crossing is a major contributing factor in the lake's changing ecosystem. 2013.

  • A pleasure craft belonging to an inn keeper in Sharaf Khaneh port

    A pleasure craft belonging to an inn keeper in Sharaf Khaneh port, which he used for recreational sightseeing. 2015.

  • A view of the coastal village of Sharaf Khaneh

    A view of the coastal village of Sharaf Khaneh from within the lake. 2011.

  • ‘Noah’s Ark’, the biggest passenger ship on Lake Urmia

    'Noah's Ark', the biggest passenger ship on Lake Urmia, which ran aground in the middle of the lake. 2013.

  • Onboard the Sahand

    Onboard the Sahand. I remember these seats. 2015.

  • An unfinished restaurant at Rahmanlou

    An unfinished restaurant at Rahmanlou, to the west of the lake. Construction halted in 2006. 2015.

  • The agricultural lands of Rahmanlou have become barren

    The agricultural lands of Rahmanlou, West Azerbaijan, which have become barren due to depleted ground water and dried up wells. Farmers have suffered heavy losses. 2015.

  • The Ousuly family’s inn, Sheikh Wali village

    The Ousuly family's inn, in Sheikh Wali village. Desolate since 2004, the family wants to sell the property and move 60km away to Shabestar. 2015.

  • View of Lake Urmia from Gamich Island

    View of Lake Urmia from Gamich Island, one of nine large islands in the lake. 2011.

  • Travellers walking in the lake, 3km from the shore at Golman Khaneh

    Travellers walking in the lake, 3km from the shore at Golman Khaneh. They are visiting from Urmia city. 2011.

  • Kazim Dashi is an island within the lake

    Kazim Dashi is an island within the lake. The red colour is from the accumulation of artemia urmiana, the best food supply for shrimp and fish. 2011.

  • The now barren agricultural lands of Rahmanlou

    The now barren agricultural lands of Rahmanlou, West Azerbaijan.

  • A salt storm heading for Lake Urmia

    A salt storm heading for Lake Urmia. According to environmentalists, if the lake is not restored, salt storms will threaten the lives of the people living in the surrounding towns and villages. 2012.

  • A dog on the main avenue of Sharaf Khaneh

    A dog on the main avenue of Sharaf Khaneh. More than 60% of the original population has left. 2015.

When I was 10, my father was hospitalised due to kidney disease in a hospital in Urmia. At home, in Tabriz city, my mother, my five year old sister and I were waiting for news of father’s recovery. After a few days, due to the severity of my father’s illness, my mother took us to Urmia city. At that time, the only way of to get between Tabriz city and Urmia was across Lake Urmia. Small passenger ships were the primary means of transport.

'Noah's Ark', the biggest passenger ship on Lake Urmia, which ran aground in the middle of the lake. 2013.

‘Noah’s Ark’, the biggest passenger ship on Lake Urmia, which ran aground in the middle of the lake. 2013.

In spite of my young age, and lack of awareness about the situation, I was full of worries and fears. Stormy weather and the lake’s restless waters made the fear grow in me more and more. Because of the bad weather, shipping had to be stopped, but we arrived just in time and we boarded the last ship. We were sitting next to the ship’s window. It was a one-hour trip, and I was staring out the window the whole time. My feelings of anxiety and fear gave way to peace. It was a beautiful picture: a blue lake and cloudy sky, and the rain drops on the window of the ship. It was a beautiful moment that I have not forgotten.

That image was the most beautiful thing that I saw and felt that day. Unfortunately, it was never to be repeated. I’ve been looking for that lost beauty since 2011, the time I started taking pictures of Lake Urmia, but in all my photos I only witness a salty death.

A view of the coastal village of Sharaf Khaneh from within the lake. 2011.

A view of the coastal village of Sharaf Khaneh from within the lake. 2011.

Lake Urmia is the world’s second largest brine lake. It is located in north western Iran, in the region of Azerbaijan, and it is divided between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan. In 2002, drought began to threaten Lake Urmia, and in 2014 more than 75% of the lake was dry. The reason for this drought was not the vengeful character of nature, but rather the nature of human irresponsibility. By digging wells, building dams on rivers which used to pour into the lake, and by throwing stones into the depths of the lake’s heart, we have narrowed the breathing of the lake.

Today, after 18 years, my father is not among us. But Lake Urmia is there.