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The unknown – traveling Central Asia by Alex Kühni

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Alex Kühni shares his experience and photos from Central Asia:

In the collective geographic memory of many western people, Central Asia is a blind spot on the map. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that many older generations attended geography class in high school at a time, when countries like Turkmenistan or Kyrgyzstan where still part of the USSR. The only country in this part of the world which is well known is, of course, Afghanistan. Due to my «hobby» of playing with google earth, I became interested in this area and set off to explore it last July. I started with Kyrgyzstan, my logic being simply that it had the best flight connection, from Switzerland where I live.

«Sureal» (in a very positive meaning) is the first word that comes to my mind when I think of my first impressions arriving in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Muslim people who look Asian and speak Russian, a mixture of soviet and Arabic architecture, to name just two of my confusions. I think the main reason for my first impressions were that I had no idea what to expect. Firstly, geographically, its a complete blind spot and secondly, there is almost no media coverage in this part of the world. You’d hardly believe that when in 2010 a bloody uprising erupted in Kyrgyzstain leading to thousands of casualties; it was a side note at best in most western media.

After spending almost 3 weeks in Kyrgyzstan in July 2013, my curiosity continued and I returned to this part of the world last autumn to visit Tajikistan and I'm planing to go to Uzbekistan this summer. I hope you enjoy my work, and maybe find inspiration through my pictures from an almost forgotten part of this beautiful world.



Working conditions and gear

I mostly travel and stay with local people in my work as a photographer, and Central Asia was no exception to that. I believe this is what's best for my work and makes it more intimate. Besides that, there is a crucial asset in having someone with me, who speaks the local languages. Even more important in countries which are not yet reached by mass tourism and therefore only a few local people are able to speak in English. I had a D600, the Nikkors 16-35/4, 85/1.4, 70-300/4.5-5.6 and the wonderful Sigma 35/1.4 stuffed in a «ThinkTank Retrospective 30» bag with me.

Many thanks go out to the special people whom I met and will meet around the globe – to those I lost track of and specially to those who I will meet again.

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«Kokpar» or «Buzkashi» is a traditional horseback game played in Central Asia. It is often compared to polo. The game is played between teams of players on horseback, propelling an decapitated goat in a circle. Near Kyzyl-Oi, Kyrgyzstan.

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Youngsters learning to ride horses. Near Kyzyl-Oi, Kyrgyzstan.

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Kyrgyzstan is often called the «Wild West» of Asia. Near Kyzyl-Oi, Kyrgyzstan.

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People living on and off a giant landfill. Near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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In a old soviet Mi-8 army helicopter from Dushanbe Tajikistan to the Afghan border. Somewhere over the Pamir mountains, Afghan/Tajik border.

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The influence form the soviet time is still vivid. Honor guards, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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No use for the hammer and sickle anymore (for now). Near Suusamyr, Kyrgyzstan.

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Soviet architecture in Tscholponata, Kyrgyzstan.

If your are interested to see more of my work, you are welcome to visit my website: www.alexkuehni.com or take a look at my flickr stream: www.flickr.com/photos/alex_kuehni

Kyrgyzstan – the most beautiful country:

Tajikistan – back to Central Asia:

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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  • desmo

    Very interesting and well done

  • Goat Head

    Still looking for the decapitated goat

  • wonderingpi

    Awesome shots, quick question though? are some of these HDR? the colors seems quite vivid but images seems look somewhat fake because of the colors. Or were they adjusted in photoshop? awesome sharp vivid shots though.

    • Alex

      Thank you! No HDR here, but I give them a fair amount of attention in Lightroom.

    • Bill Ferris

      Probably RAW files adjusted to recover details in the sky or shadows…otherwise known as dodging and burning back in the day.

  • http://photographizinglife.com/ Christopher Cook

    Great shots!! Though I’m always sketchy about flying in American helicopters, let alone an old Soviet one. Cheers!

  • Michiel953

    I really love these. Such beautiful light and colour, and capturing the essence of the moment. Yes, it requires attention in post processing, but it’s well worth it!

  • http://inthemistphoto.com/ InTheMist

    I really love these too. They tell a powerful story.

    Beer is on me if you find yourself in Solothurn.

  • Ilya

    funny to see suddenly an article with your name Alex.
    as always great shots.

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