عاشق ايمش هر ن وار ﻋﺎﻝﻢ ﻋلم بر قيل و قال ايمش آنجق
All that is in the world is love, and knowledge is nothing but gossip. -Fuzûlî
My first solo photography trip wasn’t as “solo” as I had anticipated. I unknowingly booked the first leg of the flight with my friends Sarah and Travis, a couple whose wedding I had photographed a few years before. I remember feeling so giddy as the three of us took off on our flight together, but as my gaze started to drift with the clouds outside my window, my eyes glazed over and reality began to sink in. I had one of those very conscious “what the hell am I doing” moments that always seem to happen in slow motion like it does in the movies. In that same moment, Travis leaned in and said, “I think it’s really cool what you’re doing.”
I ask myself this question quite often. Maybe that’s why an unplanned solo trip to an obscure country like Azerbaijan seemed like such a great idea… you can prepare, but you really can’t ever know what to expect. It could be scary or it could be freeing, depending on how you look at it. I had some ideas about what Azerbaijan might be like (but let’s be honest, I barely knew how to pronounce the name!). I was ready to experience it for myself.
I showed up with my cameras in hand and and no firm itinerary other than a few booked hotels. My trip began in the capital of Baku and after a few days, I decided to take a 5-hour bus trip to the village of Sheki. My ride was cut short after meeting a woman and her daughter who were sitting in the seat next to me. She didn’t speak English (few Azeris do), but we were able to write to each other using Google translate. As we approached her stop, she invited me to stay at her family’s farm for a few days. I had about 20 seconds to make a decision, so despite my nerves I went with my gut and stepped off the bus wearing a quiet smile on my face.
As I entered the predominantly Muslim village of Ujar, I realized that Aggul’s family was no ordinary family. She was one of 12 siblings, many of whom owned separate farm lots that made up their whole neighborhood. Her family showered me with love and hospitality, and this set the tone for the rest of my time in Azerbaijan. I have no words to describe the feeling this place left me with, but I suppose that’s what photos are for :)
Film scanned and developed by The Find Lab. Portra 400 + Fuji Acros 100 film stock.