Seven photographs from the series The Lake on Its Last Legs by Ebrahim Noroozi (b. 1980, Tehran)

Ebrahim Noroozi began his career as a photojournalist in 2004, working for major press outlets in Iran and internationally. He has won significant recognition for his images from The Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Japan and as a finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Grant. In addition to his photojournalism work, Noroozi has created extensive photo-essays on life in Iran that are remarkable for their richly saturated and textured compositions.

In 2016, he focused on Lake Urmia, once one of the largest saline lakes in the world. Located in northwestern Iran, Lake Urmia has been vanishing—at one point reduced to about ten percent of its original size—and often turns an intense red color due to high salinity, algae, and bacteria during the drier seasons. Despite the devotion of significant international resources to reviving the lake, and although rainy seasons bring it back to life for brief periods, Noroozi is not optimistic about its long-term future.

Noroozi’s approach goes beyond simply documenting the lake’s imperiled state. With their shifting fields of vivid color and expansive views, his images serve as both witness and memorial to this place. In this otherworldly landscape, figures lying still or wading through the shallow waters emphasize not only the shocking dissipation but also the sense of capturing the lake’s last fleeting moments.

Photograph showing the frame of a rotting boat embedded in the sand of a dry lake bed.
Seven photographs from the series The Lake on Its Last Legs
Ebrahim Noroozi (b. 1980, Tehran)
Digital prints on Epson Hotpress Natural cotton rag
Purchase—Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Endowment for Contemporary Iranian Art
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S2021.6.1.1–7