Maximilian Mann
Fading Flamingos

Largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran has become the scene of an environmental disaster. Where just ten years ago the water lapped at the village walls, there is now a vast desert. Ships that once carried people from one side of the lake to the other now lie on the shore like beached whales and fall apart. Saline winds from the desert spread over the fields and cause the harvests to dry out. The inhabitants of the villages have been robbed of their livelihood and are fleeing to the surrounding cities – the villages around the lake are dying. Lake Urmia was once the second-largest salt lake in the world, but within just a few years, its area has shrunk by 80 per cent. The causes are both climate change and the immense water consumption required by farming. The damage to agriculture and tourism has been estimated at several hundred billion euros, and up to five million people are threatened with resettlement.

  • Climate
  • Everyday Life
  • The Environment
  • Village
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

The most important moment was definitely the start of my studies. That was the initial impulse for an in-depth examination of many areas of photography. And that led me to meet many inspiring people who brought me further along my way, both photographically and as a person. Above all, establishing the DOCKS Collective in 2018, and its inherent mutual motivation, but also the discussions and arguments about photography, was and still is hugely important.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

In my opinion, the climate is the central subject of my generation; it has always been important to me. In spring 2018, my research led me to Lake Urmia and the environmental disaster there. I was surprised that I had never heard about it before. After all, it was one of the world’s largest salt lakes. I wanted to find out more and in September 2018, I travelled to Iran for the first time. An environmental disaster like the drying-up of a lake is a global problem caused by human activity. This is why, in my opinion, it is important for photographers – both local and international – to report on it.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

More photographs are being taken than ever before in human history. Nevertheless, I am firmly convinced that photojournalism is needed more than ever. We need authors who show us their view of their surroundings so we can better understand all the small and large changes in the world. And in the future, this will happen less and less via traditional magazine publications alone. We young photographers in particular must find new story forms and see the opportunity that lies in them. And there are many possibilities: social media, multimedia, virtual reality and more.

1) Was unterscheidet deine Herangehensweise von den, Fotograf*innen, die sich mit dieser Problematik ebenfalls auseinandergesetzt haben?

2) Was hat sich deiner Meinung nach in der Region nach der Veröffentlichung deiner Arbeit und den Arbeiten anderer Kolleg*innen diesbezüglich verändert?

3) Womit musstest du persönlich hadern, als du in der Region warst?

Curated by Daniel Rodríguez

© for all photos by the photographers
© for videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1992 in Kassel, Germany
Maximilian Mann studied Photography at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts and is a member of the DOCKS collective. In his documentary work, he examines environmental topics and socially disadvantaged groups. In 2019, his project on Lake Urmia in Iran won the Felix Schoeller Photo Award for the best project by an up-and-coming photographer; in the same year, Mann received the BFF Scholarship. In 2020, he was awarded with a scholarship from VG Bild-Kunst. In the same year he won the 2nd Prize for the World Press Photo Stories in the category “Environment”.


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