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Magnum Photographers
Featured Essays
May 1, 2013
by Jean Gaumy
A short time ago I was listening to an interesting interview with a documentary filmmaker on French radio. At one point the journalist asked him “Is there any country which is still unknown?” He immediately replied “Kyrgyzstan, capital Bishkek”. He was partially wrong -- I went there in March 2000. He was partially right, -- I went there because I sincerely didn’t know where it was. In fact what I like and what I liked was that feeling of discovery. To discover a country at a high altitude with surprising diversity.

With the Leica project always in mind, I called some Kyrgyz contacts and two quite exceptional opportunities of travelling in the country were immediately offered to me.
The first was a three week trip at the border of Tajikistan, in areas incredibly lost in high altitudes. There, I should encounter a French woman, Jacqueline Ripart, who was planning to spend some time there, supporting the local population and the preservation of the Kyrgyz horse, that occupies a major role in the traditional culture of the Kyrgyz people as a symbol of wealth and for their practical use to a nomadic people.

Incredibly, the second person with whom I get in touch, Almakan Naizabekova, a Kyrgyz woman who used to work for the cultural project Soros, tells me “Jean, come with us. We we'll make a film on human rights throughout the country, towns and small villages during entire month of October." I am excited by all the opportunities".

However, in October 2012, on his way to Tajikistan, Jean Gaumy found the borders closed following news of an attack. As a result, Magnum photographer decided to extend his journey through Kyrgyzstan and review his past impressions.