Gil Bartz – Baku’s Refugee Settlements

Dana Stolzgen

Baku’s Refugee Settlements


After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan gained independece. But the early years of independence were overshadowed by the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict between Azerbaijan and their neighboring Armenia between 1992-1994. More than one million people had been displaced. Thousands of refugees had to move in makeshift settlements in the outskirts of Baku, the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan.

Today Azerbaijan is better known for its oil wealth. Two thirds of Azerbaijan is rich in oil and natural gas. The second oil boom in the 1990s has left the Azeri elite with great wealth. Azeri billionaires and oligarchs have great future plans for Baku and its outskirts. They plan to build a serias of monumental buildings like the highest tower of the world with 1000 m at the highest point and an artifical island, called Khasar Island in the south west of Baku in the Caspian Sea. At last this project will cost $100 billion.



A circle of the highest authorities of the Azerbaijan government belive in the project. As a result of business environment most of the refugees settlements have to move. Those evicted Azeris have no options or get any kind of reimburstment by the Government.

This body of work is an ongoing project about people and families from Azerbaijan who have to live with the consequenses of a restrictive social environment and the arbitrariness of rich Azeris and investors. It is my aim to document their current  life in this conflict and the eviction of thousands of families in the nearest future.

I will go back to Azerbaijan to continue my work.




Gil Bartz (31) born in Braunschweig, Germany.

I studied cinematography at the Film and Television University ‘Konrad Wolf’ in Potsdam-Babelsberg in Germany and graduated in 2012 with diploma.

During my studies at the University I got fascinated by Eastern Europe and all former Soviet Union satellite states. In 2010 I travelled through Ukraine, Moldova and Transnistria and made my first contact with photography.

After I finished University I started to work as a freelance cinematographer on different film projects. In 2012 during a trip through Ukraine and Azerbaijan I decided to start working on autonomous photo projects.

Currently I am working on my first long-term project about evicted people and families from Azerbaijan.

I live and work as a freelance cinematographer and photographer in Berlin.


1 Responses to “Gil Bartz – Baku’s Refugee Settlements”

  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I took a helicopter ride from Barrow, Alaska, to Nome and then across the Bering Sea to Providenya and other smaller Yup’ik/Chukchi villages and camps in Far East Russia. Living conditions were stark and grim and the economy was broken, yet everywhere we went people smiled, they joked, they laughed. Maybe they cried and groaned and moaned a bit, too, but that’s not all they did.

    Good photos for sure, but I guess I am beginning to grow weary of essays that ignore one of humanity’s strongest survival mechanisms – humor, smiles, and laughter, even, and perhaps especially, in grim times.

    Other than this inconsequential observation, congratulations, Gil, on a job well done and on earning your new spot in Burn.

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