For the series Caspian, Chloe Dewe Mathews walked around the Caspian Sea, through Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.
In 2010 when she arrived on the shores of the Caspian Sea, she began documenting scenes that intrigued her: stonemasons with their faces covered, building elaborate mausoleums in Kazakhstan for the oil-rich middle class, or health tourists in Azerbaijan, bathing in crude oil for its therapeutic benefits. As she returned to the region repeatedly over the following five years, she sought out stories that raised questions about the human relationship with natural resources in a much-coveted territory.
Positioned between the two great continents of Asia and Europe, the Caspian is described as both an inland sea and the world’s largest saltwater lake. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it has remained outside the territorial boundary of any country, although Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Russia have all laid claim to it, each vying for the maximum share of its mineral-rich seabed and the strategic access it provides to international waters. Twenty-seven years later, in August 2018, a deal between the five countries was reached, but its consequences remain to be seen.
Away from the wranglings of geopolitics, Dewe Mathews found that materials like oil, fire, uranium, and water are integral to the mystical, economic, artistic, religious, and therapeutic aspects of daily life. Caspian: The Elements offers a series of powerful visual narratives, a portrait of this beguiling and elusive land
Chloe Dewe Mathews is a British documentary photographer, based in St Leonards-on-Sea, UK. She is known for the ambitious documentary projects that can take years of preparation. Dewe Mathews has said "I am exploring ways in which to project the past on to the present".