Uzbekistan-based Hassan Kurbanbaev photographs the places where he feels “calm and well”

With an aim to tell the stories of those in his country, the photographer’s work represents a “new era” for Uzbekistan.

17 March 2020

“We have a tragic situation with photography in my country,” says Uzbekistan-based Hassan Kurbanbaev. “As a rule, photography is equal to a wedding and some kind of advertising. People are suspicious of the photographer and those who refuse to shoot weddings are generally considered to be a crazy freak.”

So much so that the social and economic positioning of the medium drove Hassan, like many other budding photographers, to work in something different. Alas he chose radio for his love of music, plus the fact that he was able to disconnect from reality, before venturing into reporting and shooting stock photos. “At some magical moment in my life, I realised that photography is something more serious than I thought; it’s a huge, amazing world in which I feel free, first of all from my own fears and my doubts.”

Now flourishing in the medium of photography, Hassan utilises his camera to tell the stories of the people living in Uzbekistan. Upon description of his work, he chooses the phrasing of: “postcards from the Central Asian region at the beginning of the 21st century”. Perhaps this is due to his documentary style of photographing, or more the fact that he’s simply capturing, and then archiving – like a physical postcard – the people in his country. Or perhaps it’s simply due to his love of archaic pictures: “I love photos from archives – any postcards, family, strangers or from the internet,” he tells It’s Nice That. “There is true authenticity in them, the transience of time, fashion and anything else is visible – this is impressive.”

GalleryHassan Kurbanbaev, Logomania: Owning the World at Half Price

As well as capturing his country, Hassan’s work tends to focus primarily on youth. It all began when he’d undergone a short break in photography, a moment that occurred because of how difficult it was to continue in the field. “I walked a lot in my city of Tashkent and began to photograph the young people, because they are more open to being photographed,” he continues to explain, “and so a series of ordinary portraits of the young generation of my city happened.”

By turning a focus on the youths of Uzbekistan, Hassan aims to provide a visual platform for the “outsiders” to shine through – a place where smaller subcultures are represented, as well as those who remind him of himself at their age. “I wanted to show that Tashkent is not such an outlandish city, there are guys here who could live in any city in the world.”

Alongside this portfolio of work, one that he describes as a “deep study” of his region, Hassan has just completed a new project, titled Logomania: Owning the World at Half Price – a series he refers to as an investigation into modern Uzbekistan and a place in which he’s ironically showing the Western obsession with logos of famous brands. “My past and future series,” he says, “in one way or another are connected with the questions of who we are as a nation and what Uzbekistan is today.” This essential question drives the series, where symbols and everyday life is portrayed with Eastern mass culture, fashion and religion, alongside “the influence of the West.” He adds: “In this series, I objectify the local obsession and the borrowing of luxury.”

Most imperative is Hassan’s need to centre his work around the theme of home, “a place where I feel calm and well.” In this turbulent climate whereby most of the world is self-isolating, it’s never been so important to steer away from the doom and gloom and remember some of the cosy, homely and good things in life – those that are quite literally on our door step.

GalleryHassan Kurbanbaev, Logomania: Owning the World at Half Price

GalleryHassan Kurbanbaev

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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