Blog posts


I'll drink to that

A group of Kazakh, Uzbek and Russian friends enjoy a Sunday afternoon beside Lake Issyk in the Ili-Alatau National Park, Kazakhstan. Here, Lola and her new boyfriend Nurik down another shot of vodka.
Any outing in the former soviet union requires alcohol. Usually vast quantities of vodka, drunk straight down. It doesn't matter what it is: a birthday, a wedding, a graduation, of course, but also, a bus ride, a picnic, an interview, meeting an old friend or meeting anyone, for that matter. It is rude to refuse. Not that I don't try. In order to get this shot, I had to consume several more shots than I'd have liked. Lola grabbed me by the wrist and wouldn't let go until I had downed every drop.

Members of a Raion Election Commission in Ala Buka, Jalal Abad oblast, Kyrgyzstan, make celebratory vodka toasts after an inspection by international observers from OSCE.
It reminds me of an old photo I recently rescanned. After we grilled a group of commissioners in a remote Kyrgyz town about how they were corrupting the election, they insisted on taking us up to an isolated mountain pass. It would have been a good spot to shoot us from behind and bury us under boulders. Instead, they drank copious amounts of vodka and pressured us to follow suit.



I hate to brag, but... who am I kidding, I love to brag. Just don't do it often enough. A photo of mine graces the (back) cover of a new book officially released today by Harvard University Press: Henry Kissinger and the American Century, by UW professor Jeremi Suri. The photo is a boring one, author photos usually are.

I think it is because I grew up in a household that revered books: I always feel a special pleasure when my photos are used on book jackets. But I must admit, the talking portrait I shot of Suri for UW in 2005 was more interesting.


chilling out

Serik Baizhanov of Almaty, Kazakhstan, enjoys a (very brief) swim in Lake Issyk, in the Ili-Alatau National Park about 60 km (35 miles) from Almaty.

Lake Issyk is at 1760 meters (5,775 ft) elevation, fed by glaciers on nearby 4978–meter (16,332-foot) Talgar Peak; the water is a frigid 9 degrees Celsius (48 F). Despite the chilly water, I also went for a swim. It took me 15 minutes to get myself in, and 15 seconds to get back out!


shooting the moon

The full moon lights a radio telescope and the peaks above the GAISH Astronomical Observatory in the Zhungarsky Alatau mountains outside Almaty, Kazakhstan. Above the observatory is 3954-meter (12,972-foot) Peak Turist. This photograph was taken in the middle of the night, with an 8-second-long exposure to capture the starlight.

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