We take an enormous number of photographs at present. We think nothing of shooting 5, 10 or more shots of a single sunset, a pet, or a street sign. It is so easy to accept this state of affairs about snapping pictures that it is also easy to overlook the fact that only 25 years ago many people in the world didn’t own a camera, much less a smart phone or an Ipad. Indeed, within the Soviet Union only those people who first obtained a license were entitled to have a camera. And of course there were precious few places where you could purchase film and maybe less where the film could be developed and printed.
Time after time in Almaty in the mid-1990s, I encountered people who had not been photographed for years and were utterly delighted if I snapped their picture and later, upon a return trip from England, presented them with prints. As a result, I frequently carried my simple 35mm camera with me.
The above photograph was taken on Victory Day, May 9, 1995. I lived in Samal-2 and was on my way to Republic Square to watch the big military parade. Just outside my apartment building I came across two young girls. I was so tickled to see them all dolled up that, even though I didn’t know them and had never seen them before, I took their picture. To what purpose? Well, my idea was the usual – take the film back to England, have it developed and then present both of them with enlarged copies.
Unfortunately, I never located those girls again. I naturally watched out for them and even posted a notice with a regular-size print of the photo in the small lobby of our building. Maybe they were visitors. Perhaps they lived somewhere else in the neighbourhood, and not in my building.
I have no regrets now about taking the photo and ordering the enlargements. Probably there is still a lingering hope within me that one day I will at last find the girls. That could be difficult of course. I won’t recognize them now that they are adults; they won’t know me, and, never having seen themselves in the photo, they may not even recognize themselves!
Do you know who they are?
Friends in Almaty – you might like to share this message.
Book Sales: Find more information and stories about Kazakhstan and its people from the 1990s and later in my book, West Meets East in Kazakhstan. It’s available online in softcover or e-book format from AuthorHouse (the publisher), or Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
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Consultancy: Although I currently am trying to ensure that my book gets maximum exposure, the fact is that writing and publishing are sidelines for me. My main focus is assisting foreign companies to engage in business in Kazakhstan (or elsewhere in Central Asia) and assisting businesses and individuals in Kazakhstan with their projects outside of Kazakhstan.
Based on my long career as a lawyer and my time spent in Kazakhstan, I take on projects in a wide range of industries, certainly in oil & gas, banking & finance, and minerals. But such a statement insufficiently acknowledges the many spheres in which I have had experience – commercial trading, manufacturing in several areas, transport, directorships of companies listed on the London Stock Excange, shipping, and many more.
For further information, contact me at email@example.com and at +44 1753 885955