In the past five years, Mustafah Abdulaziz has traveled to nine countries on four continents, documenting the role water plays in human lives. “Water Stories,” an exhibition of 68 of those photographs, opens today at Photoville in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park as part of an outdoor light box exhibition on view until October 12. In the images, Abdulaziz looks at water problems facing both wealthy and poor countries, the results of rapid development, lack of resources or changing environments. The project is a collaboration with HSBC Water Programme, a partnership between HSBC, Earthwatch, WaterAid and WWF.
Along with showing drought and conflict, Abdulaziz also documents places where pollution and scarcity are being addressed or alleviated. In China, he photographs shrimp fishing on Lake Hong in Hubei Province, where WWF is working to improve the health of the country’s lakes and rivers. In an image from Osukputu, Benue, Nigeria, a water pump is set among palm trees and surrounded by the women and children who use it to collect clean water. Daily life there has improved since WaterAid started working to expand access to safe water and sanitation. In Brazil’s Pantanal wetland in Mato Grosso State, Abdulaziz photographed a farmer who has worked to conserve a stream that runs through his property. The region’s Chapada dos Guimarães National Park is the subject of efforts by WWF and its local partners and the Pantanal Pact to protect the biodiverse region and its headwaters. In New York City, where water quality is usually high, Abdulaziz photographs the green roof of a U.S. Postal Service building in Manhattan, and a citizen scientist who as been trained by the FreshWater Watch project to monitor storm water runoff. In Pakistan, Abdulaziz shows children in Sindh collecting water in the barren land left after floods damaged the region in 2010 and 2011. Elsewhere in the country, WaterAid and local partners helped construct hand pumps, toilets and rainwater harvesting ponds. And in Kanpur, India, Abdulaziz photographs leather tannery fields, where the chemicals used to process animal hides have leached into run-off streams. But in the city’s Goswami Nagar slum, WaterAid has worked to build toilets and change hygiene practices.
While Abdulaziz’s photographs are sometimes bleak, they also show that progress can be made. As a statement from the show reads, “The challenges presented by increasing water scarcity can be daunting, but they are not insurmountable. As scarcity grows, so does the need for increased focus in the way water is allocated, regulated and managed. These challenges require collective action by all sectors of society to make a difference.”