Kokand Dreams

Kokand is a middle sized but important town in the Ferghana Valley which straddles the Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Krygyzstan. The Ferghana Valley was from whence the Chughtai Turk by the name of Babur arose to make his name and fortune in the early 16th century.  His destiny led him to the lands then known as Hindustan. He stayed and founded the greatest of India’s modern empires, the Mughal.

In recent times the Ferghana Valley has become a hotbed of Islamic protest. Several years ago the Uzbek government carried out a violent crackdown on anti-government protests in Kokand, which in summer is a shady, lazy city hemmed in by apricot orchards, crumbled tombs and mosques.

This photo was taken in 2000. The organisation I was working for was designing a major integrated development program in the Ferghana Valley. For two weeks I was part of a huge team of technical experts and local staff who travelled across the Valley to meet with communities in the hope of finding something useful we could work with them to achieve. 

The photo is of a window of a big department store on one of the main streets in Kokand. Four posters, of the type that are so popular with lower middle class families in this part of the world,are stuck to four window panes. 

One of my recurring interests as a photographer is photos of photos. I’m also a huge fan of popular, folk-art, as opposed to fine art. To me, a walk through a bazar is far more exciting and revealing of life and culture than a silent afternoon in a museum. So my collection of photos is absolutely full of pictures of posters, and cheap art and artefacts, like these.  The fantasy and dream-like hope these posters elicit is simply irresistible.

Finally, I like to be able to fill my pictures with patterns. And there is no more basic or solid pattern than a four-framed window. And the pleasure is enhanced when there is a photo of a window of a photo of a window! Check out the top left frame!

So all elements came together in this picture.

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