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Photo-driven Aral Sea project gives voice to underrepresented community affected by climate change

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A photojournalist’s pitch turned into a project that took this team to a remote area rarely covered by news outlets

Photojournalist Ebrahim Noroozi had a vision when he pitched a story on the Aral Sea. He wanted to creatively show what the sea once meant to those who relied on it, long before it dried up. Thanks to the climate team and the coordination and organizational skills of Alyssa Goodman, the pitch moved forward as a series of stories — the first of which, a beautiful photo- and character-driven project, was published as a piece of enterprise journalism tied to the COP climate conference.

Noroozi teamed up with reporter Victoria Milko and traveled to the once-mighty Aral, with the hope of finding enough people who still lived near the drying sea. The team crossed Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan by plane, train and car to go to the remote sides of the Aral. While there, they documented how climate change is further impacting lives of those in the region.

The photos have a nostalgic and eerie quality, with those who have long been tied to the sea pictured with old boats sitting on now-dry sand. The team worked with a translator who helped get them gain trust of many people to share their stories. The digital presentation elevated the story, each image showing a person affected by the Aral’s demise.

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