Ben Apfelbaum and Mustafah Abdulaziz with the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House.

If you find yourself near the Opera House gates of the Botanical Gardens you will see a vivid yet sobering group of photographs about the crisis in water supply in various parts of the world photographed by New Yorker Mustafah Abdulaziz.

To avoid being categorised into a certain type of photography, Mustafah relocated to Berlin to feel less constrained. As a result he came up with a Water Stories photography project as one of the few unifying themes of mankind, especially as we are made up of  80% water. What started out as a limited project has blown out to 15 years and at this stage he believes he is a third way through. His principal sponsors are HSBC and EarthWatch.

The exhibition is set up in a compartmentalised way with a stylised map of each country Mustafah visited with the photographs tucked into the rear of these maps. This was deliberate on Mustafah’s part as he wished that his compartmentalised photos would create a sense of intimacy with the viewer.

Furthermore, to enhance this engagement he used a six inch by seven inch Mamiya medium format film camera. Once again he did not use digital as he wanted the simplicity of film, which does not involve trickery to cement the intimacy link with the viewer.

The countries he has photographed so far include Brazil, USA, Pakistan, India and China. Australia will be documented in the third portion of the project.

When photographing his subjects he initially thought that they would be concerned with class and gender issues. However when he tried to understand what they really wanted to tell him it was more to do with global issues like climate change and especially its effect on water availability.

Naturally undertaking photography with a sense of purpose is very satisfying to this thirty one year old. However, in order to visit some of the far flung and remote places of the earth he has to be a pincushion of yellow fever, typhus, malaria and cholera injections. These are minor hindrances  compared to the hugely important role of raising awareness of water scarcity that these images dramatically portray.


Water Stories: The exhibition will show 70 large format images in a unique outdoor display

Where: Royal Botanic Garden Sydney Waterfront – access is via the Queen Elizabeth II Gate at the Sydney Opera House forecourt (only access after sunset)

Cost: Free to the public

Dates: Exhibition is running until 5 September 2017

Time: 7 am – 8 pm daily, the exhibition will be illuminated after dark creating a unique visual display for night-time viewing.

Featured image- Photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz who came to Sydney to launch his latest exhibition. Image by Ben Apfelbaum.