Promising waters by Mila Teshaieva.

This is a book about the Caspian Sea… Well, give me a minute, I have to search in an atlas where it is located.


Baku, I remember this name… When I was young, I did a presentation at the school, it was about oil in the area. For us, European people, the Caspian Sea remains widely unknown, mainly because, during the XXth century, it was shared between USSR and Iran, two countries which have not always been of an easy access. We know the name, but I am not sure that so many people could precisely locate it.

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« Promising waters » is a book about the changes that happened recently around what is not completely defined as a sea or a lake : the Caspian Sea. The rules for the exploitation are not the same, and it is important when considering the huge quantity of oil in the ground.

The exploitation of oil during the USSR period was intensive without any consideration for the local populations ; and when the « empire » broke away, the new countries found with this new independence, the opportunity of an economic growth.

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In her book, Mila Teshaieva takes us to a tour through the three new republics rebuilt on the ruins of the former USSR : Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The purpose of her book is to show us the great expectations of the populations around, sharing a new regained pride and a strong belief in a brighter future.

Mila shows a strong empathy for the people and her photographs tell us the daily life of those persons. We discover fishermen, offices employees, workers, tourists, children, well, what we can call humanity. And they all stand proudly in front of the camera, whether they are in a poor house or in a new Hight Tech environment, whether they have reached this brighter future or not. This pride is the only thing these people own and Mila wants to point it out. Whatever happens, in the past, the present or in the future, they stand proudly to face the world.

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The representation of the world around alternates photographs of landscapes; from industrial wastelands to new built hypermodern colorful buildings, built to « entertain » the people and the leaders. Always in the background, the omnipresence of the sea which can almost be smelt in every picture. The differences become surrealistic, due to the incredible contrast between rural areas and fast developed towns.

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But we feel also some sadness in the photographs due to the strong dichotomy between the past expectations and what they got : the poverty remains and the modernity seems to be out of scale, towns are deserted, symbolising the failure of the promises – where does the money go and what for ? After suffering during the soviet domination, they now see the failure of capitalism.

Hopefully, the cultural unity between people living all around the Caspian Sea is reinforced by the presence of the water : the sea becomes the shared value. And whatever happens, water is source of life, and as long as the Sea will be there, hope and faith will overcome. Fishermen will go everyday to the sea, workers will go to factories… and people will keep on having great expectations !


Hard cover with silk screen print
24×22 cm, 120 pages, 52 color photos
Text by Maya Iskenderova, Christoph Moeskes, Mila Teshaieva
Design by Ania Nalecka/TBD
Published by Kehrer Verlag

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All photos copyright Mila Teshaieva and the Publisher.