NPR : News

A Panorama Of Central Asia

It's not every day that you encounter a photographer based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, let alone one that was raised in Japan, went to school in Missouri and is fluent in Russian. That's Ikuru Kuwajima. Another thing that makes him unique: He often shoots with a panoramic camera.

I came across his work while reviewing photos for the Portland, Ore.-based PhotoLucida Critical Mass program, which exists to help photographers like Kuwajima get exposure.

There was a little statement with the photographs, but for the most part, the captioning was sparse — a lot like the photos themselves. Something about Kuwajima's photos of the big, open steppe of central Kazakhstan really captured my imagination. Many of his images document one family, the Sokolovs, living in a specific region called the Sary-Shagan polygon.

Kuwajima explains that during the Soviet era, more than 60 square miles were devoted to the testing of ballistic missiles. "However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991," he writes, "the majority of the residents, especially nonethnic Kazakhs, left the area that lost much significance and governmental supports."

A few remained, like the Sokolov family, and moved into the abandoned military barracks, making ends meet by fishing and scavenging metal scraps, Kuwajima says.

I asked Kuwajima to share some photos from the Sokolov story — as well as some favorites from his travels throughout Central Asia, where he's been based for two years now.

"I always like the vastness of it," he writes in our correspondence. "I feel relieved when I'm in the steppe, mountains or desert. ... I don't like crowded places very much and am a bit claustrophobic. I can be free from those things in Central Asia, for the most part."

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


No Meekness Here: Meet Rosa Parks, 'Lifelong Freedom Fighter'

As the 60th anniversary of the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott approaches, author Jeanne Theoharis says it's time to let go of the image of Rosa Parks as an unassuming accidental activist.

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'

Internet food culture has brought us new words for nearly every gastronomical condition. The author of "Eatymology," parodist Josh Friedland, discusses "brogurt" with NPR's Rachel Martin.
WAMU 88.5

World Leaders Meet For The UN Climate Change Summit In Paris

World leaders meet for the UN climate change summit in Paris to discuss plans for reducing carbon emissions. What's at stake for the talks, and prospects for a major agreement.


Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.