‘Selfie at the Lake’: Story Behind the Photo


The photo of a man making a selfie with the people in the swan in the background is named ‘Selfie at the Lake’. A photo I’m very proud of and one of the photos that attract a lot of attention. The photo is made at Lake Urmia in Iran, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. ‘Selfie at the Lake’ has not only an eye-catching composition but has also an interesting story behind the photo. Selfie at lake urmia



The Start


The story of ‘Selfie at the Lake’ began actually years before I even made the photo. In a magazine, I saw photos of a Salt Lake, made by a well know photographer. The photos were amazing. I loved the contrast between the soft colors of the lake and the black chadors of the Iranian women.

After seeing these photos nothing really happens. It was until I visited Iran for the first time in 2016 that I remembered the photos of the lake. Unfortunately, that was on the plane back home.

From that moment the idea of making photos at lake Urmia started to develop and I made plans to visit the lake the next time I would go to Iran.



The Making


It took five months to turn the plan into action and visit the lake. At that moment there were no facilities close to the lake, which complicated the planning a lot. Eventually, I went on a day trip to the lake from the city Tabriz with another photographer who’s well known in the area. Selfie at the lake Urmia Iran 

Most of the time when you imagine something, you make it even better in your imagination than it is in reality. For me, at Lake Urmia, it was quite the opposite. The lake was in reality so much more magical than I remembered it from the photos and in my imagination.

It’s hard to put into words how the surroundings of the Lake looked like that covers all the beauty of the lake. Because of the high concentration of salt in the air, the sky and the water looked like one. The blue, white, and pink colors of the lake were soft. Making it a kind of fairytale décor for people making a day trip to the lake.

We spend all day walking and sitting on multiple spots around the lake. It was by accident that we saw the man jumping on one of the salt hobs in the lake. We peddled with our own swan to them and I was in time to make a photo that I would later name ‘Selfie at the Lake’.

To me, this Salt Lake is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. The lake and the whole area around it felt almost surreal. So breathtaking. Truth is, that is not the whole story of Lake Urmia.


Lake Urmia, Iran


Beauty on death row


The true story of Lake Urmia is less beautiful. Lake Urmia was once one of the biggest salt lakes in the world. Today, the lake is worldwide known for its fast-shrinking surface. In 2017 the lake had only 10% left of its initial surface. As it seems, the lake is a victim of an intermingle of disfunction of the environmental resources around the lake and the effects of climate change.

The shrank surface was clearly visible when we visited the lake at that time. Changing cabins that were once only a few meters away from the shoreline was now miles away from the water. Hotels were empty or closed. Villages that once made a living from the life of the lake were abandoned.

The shrank has affected the life in the lake dramatically too. Lake Urmia has always been the home of many birds and fish. In the years vegetation and animals died due to the change in environmental circumstances. Algae’s started to grow and turned parts of the lake red, making the lake toxic for other animals.

Another problem developed with the salt of the lake. While the water shrinks, the salt remains, leaving the area hyper salted. The results: the wind takes away the salt affecting nearby houses, the environment, health, and agriculture. Selfie at the lake Urmia Iran

In other words, the lake was disappearing at a fast speed, taking with it the life around it.


bird in salt




The future is bright?


Luckily there was a turn of events in recent years. Lake Urmia had a lot of attention from local protestors and environmental organizations worldwide and became part of Iran’s national political agenda. A recovery plan was constructed to prevent Lake Urmia from existing. And with success. From 2019 the lake is filling up with water again. In 2020 the recovery of the lake is even better than planned. Having a positive effect on the surrounding of the lake. selfie at the lake Urmia Iran

The story of Lake Urmia not only shows the intense beauty of nature but also the impact of human interaction with nature. Without action, people can affect the environment in fatal ways.


‘Selfie at the Lake’ is available on print in multiple sizes, click here to go to the webshop.



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