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Tuesday, 26 January 2010


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Perhaps your US readers who are reluctant to visit Britain because they believe it to be a "police state" should try Uzbekistan instead.

Truly beautiful pictures. How could any sane person consider these to be defaming or insulting to that country's traditions?


And these are a crime against the state? All these photos make me do is want to visit a land and a culture that is so different from my own.

Some great images there! The people, the color, the buildings and the countryside makes this country look a great place to visit. Thanks for posting the link.

Almost everything about these two paragraphs is absurd. Sentence 1: you've already admitted Uzbekistan was off your radar so one can assume other coutries are too, so the 'every country' is meaningless. Honest and unflinching, breathtaking and proud. You can tell all that? It's 'proud' that gets me though as if 'pride' is a good thing. Some Christians believe it's a mortal sin. It's always mystified me why pride is revered in the USA.

Cracking shots some of them.

Didn't the apple originate from Uzbekistan?


To the government of Uzbekistan:

These photos make me want to come to Uzbekistan and spend "tourist dollars" and exploring both the beautiful landscape and beautiful people. Since I take a lot of photos, I am sure that sharing my photos with friends and on flickr when I returned would be an encouragement to do the same.

Alas, your prosecution of Ms. Akhmedova indicates that I might be in danger if I made the journey. How can I be assured you might not detain me, even make me disappear, for simply taking photos?

Regards, your humble wanderer

Some interesting comments above, Mike.
I think that Random Excellence is a consistently rewarding feature of your site, thanks for this. I forwarded the link to my daughter, who is learning the small camera, and recommended that she consider how this photographer uses the frame without cropping. Not easy. Nice work.

Uzbekistan is one of the most wonderful places I have had the pleasure of visiting. A fascinating mix of Central Asian, Islamic and Soviet cultural influences. The country was a key silk-road crossroad and thus there are influences from over a much wider region (China to the Med). Sadly saddled with a Government stuck in the Soviet era. My photos here: http://www.rgw-photo.com/ASIA/Uzbekistan.

If you are interested, the best book on the area is "The Great Game" by Peter Hopkirk. A fantastic read covering the period that Central Asia was squeezed between, and fought over, by Russians and the British. Also, Uzbekistan is one of only two 'double-land-locked' countries in the world (countries surrounded by other countries that are also land-locked) - can you name the other...?

Very sensitive pictures of a beautiful country and a beautiful culture and people.

I don't feel quite as vehemently about the issue as Steven House seems to do, but I have to ask how much of your reaction to these photographs, and the adjectives you use to describe them, stem from the exotic (to us) nature of the subject matter.

While these are certainly not bad photographs (indeed, one or two are really good), I wouldn't call them exceptional. To me many of them look exactly like the countless cliched photos of my country (India) which show up in lavishly printed identikit photobooks claiming to celebrate the mysterious/breathtaking/vibrant Orient.

Admittedly, a function of photography is to reveal unfamiliar worlds to outsiders. In this capacity, I'm sure Ms Akhmedova succeeds. But then so would any half-decent photographer in a similarly picturesque location.

Of course, the trouble that these photos have got her into is quite shocking, and I have every sympathy for her.

You can sign a petition in support of here


Dear Islam Karimov,
President of Uzbekistan,

Umida Akhmedova is an excellent photographer, doing a great service for the Uzbek nation. In no way I can imagine her photos as being diminishing to her country. They actually make me want to visit Uzbekistan, because they show a hardy, proud and very genuine people.

Here in the USA, many great photographers have taken pictures of Americans during good times and during hard times, for example the Great Depression, and Americans today are grateful that these photographers did it. In fact, some of the greatest photographers were actually employed by the American Government as part of the WPA, to document life in America.

Umida shows a very humane face of Uzbekistan, and through her eyes we feel connected to your country.

Please do not allow Umida to be persecuted or put in prison for what is not a crime, but a blessing.

Mike C

"Also, Uzbekistan is one of only two 'double-land-locked' countries in the world (countries surrounded by other countries that are also land-locked) - can you name the other...?"

Must be a trick question. Isn't there is little patch of Lesotho that's sovereign to South Africa? Something like that? If not, I give up....


Good photos for sure but I wonder if they would feel so special without the context? Much of the scenes remind me of Mongolia, which also has some hang-ups about its Soviet era, although a more progressive government.

To answer Robert's question: Lichtenstein.

@Robert Waddingham: Liechtenstein is.

Well Liechtenstein is completely surrounded by Switzerland and Austria, both landlocked.

I feel the need to answer Steve House's comment (please, excuse my bad English) because, as a reader, I was bothered by his aggressive tone that I found totally sour and out of place.
First of all, the admission that Uzbekistan was off Mike's radar, doesn't make his expression ''every country'' meaningless because it was preceded by ''It seems to me'' that clearly states he shared an impression and didn't try to communicate any truth.

Second, Steve House's interpretation of ''proud'' seems to be very narrow and partial because this adjective is not necessarily linked to ''pride'' as a sin.
I 'googled' for a definition of ''proud'' and I'm quoting the first result as I believe it to be enough (from WordNet by Princetone University):

S: (adj) proud (feeling self-respect or pleasure in something by which you measure your self-worth; or being a reason for pride) "proud parents"; "proud of his accomplishments"; "a proud moment"; "proud to serve his country"; "a proud name"; "proud princes"
S: (adj) gallant, lofty, majestic, proud (having or displaying great dignity or nobility) "a gallant pageant"; "lofty ships"; "majestic cities"; "proud alpine peaks".

I believe Mike used it in the meaning of ''feeling self-respect'' or ''displaying great dignity or nobility'' (of course, inner dignity) and that doesn't qualify as a mortal sin in my opinion. In Italian the expression nobile d'animo that I'm not sure it's correctly translated by 'noble in spirit/soul' defines a virtuous state.

Should we try instead to guess which kind of sin the sentence ''Almost everything about these two paragraphs is absurd'' might represent?
Do not judge, and you will not be judged.

"Also, Uzbekistan is one of only two 'double-land-locked' countries in the world (countries surrounded by other countries that are also land-locked) - can you name the other...?"

The only one that comes to mind is Liechtenstein (bordered by Switzerland and Austria) but it's debatable if it can be called a country in its own right, though.

Looking at a map of the world reveals Bhutan - but that's only if Tibet is not considered to be a province of China.

Ok, so I couldn't resist :)

The travel writer Colin Thubron has written two involving books about this region: The Lost Heart of Asia, and Shadow of the Silk Road.

Both are recommendable; both are overtly an outsider's viewpoint, but the man seems both sympathetic and a clear thinker.

About the double landlock - my guess the second country would be Liechtenstein - surrounded bu Austria and Switzerland which are both land-locked.
It's quite obscure but not quite as obscure as your patch of Lesotho.

Obviously Umida Akhmedova didn't dress-up or contrive her pictures enough to escape persecution, since they are from a very honest perspective and do not cross the line, which many Westerners do, of becoming exploitative in order to pander to an audiences conscience, one way or another. I suppose the pictures of the slumped gentleman on the statues, which I thought excellent, didn't go down too well with the authorities, who had commissioned her afterall. But, aside from the purpose, they remind me of what someone like James Ravillous might have produced in colour, which is commendation enough in my book.
Oh, and there's nothing wrong with conveying, which she does in a very nice 'inclusive' style, the pride of a people in its culture and surroundings - visit Wales perhaps the most 'sinful' Christian nation.
Many thanks for showing this, Mike.

Mark Walker

Thank you for drawing our attention to the plight of Umida Akhmedova. However little we can do to help, the more people who know about this sort of thing the better. What is quite certain, of course, is that neither the British Foreign Office nor its US equivalent will bestir itself much to intervene, despite the deep interest both countries have in Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks are a dignified and longsuffering people crushed under a psychotic despot with an appalling record of abuse and violence. Check out what happened to Craig Murray ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_murray ), the British ambassador in Tashkent, when he forgot his diplomatic status so far as to tell the truth. And we are supposed to be the civilized ones. The despot Karimov may be a bastard, but he’s got something that we want, so we make sure that he’s our bastard (for the time being). Does this remind you of anything? The bare faced duplicity and smug self-serving complacency of our alleged leaders is utterly contemptible.

Double land-locked:

Uzbekistan and:

Liechtenstein, small country in Europe, surrounded only by Austria and Switzerland.

Certainly the photography of Akhmedova conveys content, and the repression of her and her photographs is bad, but in all honesty is it good photography?

Is this a case where mostly unknown or exotic subject matter becomes confused with the ability of the photographer? That is, the photographer was just there and took snapshots, but the content overrides any technical shortcomings? Then the photographer is said to be 'good' because of the subject, not in the way it is presented or handled?

"That is, the photographer was just there and took snapshots, but the content overrides any technical shortcomings? Then the photographer is said to be 'good' because of the subject, not in the way it is presented or handled?"

You mean as opposed to all those well-presented and -handled shots of sunsets, kittens, flowers, and fall foliage?


Why does it take someone from the outside to see us for who we are and yet so often we don't want to know? That appears to be a universalism throught all cultures. I suspect it makes us realise that our ways are not that much better than everyone else's.

Great photos. Thank heavens for the Google translate.

Wonderful work, and beautiful pictures of an area I'm not familiar with. Truly one of the gifts of photography - making the distant and/or exotic accessible to us.

I agree with most of the comments about how the pictures show us an area and people who are far removed from our daily (western) lives. But... what are the government's reasons for their actions? Could it be that with our eyes we see an unsullied culture, while they see a depiction that shows them as not being westernized enough? Does anybody have any information or links to why this happened?

"as opposed to all those well-presented..."

My statement or question could be flipped on its head which arrives at maybe something a little clearer, but most readers here probably know the answer, and I should if I don't already.

What's the difference between good photography and a good photographer? If both content and technique are 'good' - I'm using 'good' cautiously since any such word is too weighted - is it the sign of a good photographer? If only content is 'good' is this good photography, but not the work of a good photographer?

Does this make sense? Of course if I personally had to vote, it'd be for content over technique, though both would be better. Or am I trying to start a conversation over how many 'x' on the head of a pin?

Mike, sixty miles west of the Main Mike

Speaking of Lichtenstein:


Liechtenstein it is. Gold stars for those that knew. Effort awards for Lesotho. Those who googled and those that doubt the sovereignty of Liechtenstein have to stand at the back of the class until playtime.

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