Sunday 24 February 2013

These crazy photographers and their wonderful Central Asia

Kim Lau (right) and our friend Iker (another travel companion and keen photographer) at work in the Pamirs in September 2012

Traveling in Central Asia has many implications. One of them definitely is to meet amateur and professional photographers going mad with so many interesting people and landscapes. It means also meeting people like me – lousy photographers who, for some reason, just find this particular region of the world the ultimate home of God, not exactly the Lost Heart of Asia described by Colin Thubron on his well-known book, but, more precisely, the Lost Heart of the World, the crossroads where this planet meets itself – the East and the West; the deserts and the seas; the powerful nature and the powerful humans who destroy the nature or create mesmerizing wonders out of clay and rocks.

I met some of these in one trip on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan last year. Kim Lau, a photographer from Singapore, was one of my travel companions in the most challenging part of my journey – the Pamirs in Tajikistan. It was not his first time crossing the mountains and deserts of my beloved Central Asia taking along his lenses and cameras – to be honest, I would never do it, I am far too lazy for taking with me such extra weight, my notebook and a descent camera-mobile phone were more than enough. On the other hand, I had the impression that not Kim, but Kim’s cameras, were the real travellers – he was their partner, or, better still, their guide, their producer. He showed me some of his photos and we talked a lot. This fascination with a different world beyond our comfort zone clearly united us. However, that was not the only reason that made him a great Central Asian photographer – inside his head there was also a magical creativity, the ability to make people feel at ease in front of the lenses and his tireless desire to go after the best images. Always. Despite the cold weather, despite diarrhoea, despite lack of descent food, despite lack of time on a tight schedule. He was there. Clicking. Here are some of his photos. I hope he doesn’t mind I didn’t tell him in advance I would be mentioning him in my blog!

There are photographers, though, that go even beyond that. Blessed with luck or turning the flow of life to create a dam-luck, there are people that end up living in some of the most remote places on Earth and have the opportunity of working on long term projects – long, I mean, years and years. I envy these guys as well. Here is one of them, the American Ivan Sigal, who unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of meeting in person. In his project White Road, he uses black and white images to show the world behind the walls of houses in Central Asia, Russia and Afghanistan between 1998 and 2005. Certainly not an easy endeavour, given the natural scepticism of Central Asians. His work, however, is breathtaking. Here below are some photos from White Road, and here is an interview with him.

My dear friends, you are so inspiring. Here is my tribute to you – I hope you never stop working, bringing us what most will never have the opportunity to see in person.

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