4.3 Cuckoos at Dawn: outsider in a Kyrgyz village

Competing documentary perspectives: book concept

Planned as charity book to fundraise for women’s associations in Kyrgyzstan, and also a participatory reflection and sharing of different ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ perspectives on Baizakh.

  • I re-select and re-edit the colour photographs, focusing on content and meaning rather than technical quality, using my skills developed in Assignment 2.2 Shutterscapes to bring more technically problematic images to an appropriate technical level.
  • I use InDesign to give a better layout with my own text from memories, brief notes and reports on peoples’ views expressed in the workshops and on-line information/Kyrgyz texts building on approaches to image and text in book design from Part 3 Image and Text.
  • I add pages of ‘audience-generated’ ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ text at the end written in reaction to my version by ‘outsider’ colleagues from the capital Bishkek, ‘outsider’ workshop participants from elsewhere in Kyrgyzstan and people from Baizakh village itself. I also start to look at what potential markets in Kyrgyzstan might be interested in in terms of images and text.

Designed with and for a lower cost Kyrgyzstan/Russian-speaking audiences (with translation) international development agencies, and socially interested tourist market.

The idea for this book was to focus explicitly on a selection of photographs that could be used as a basis for asking questions about the meaning of what I was seeing as an outsider. Getting information and text from people from the village and also development agencies in Kyrgyzstan. I explore which aspects of the images and documentary are interesting for different audiences, partly to consider potential markets but particularly for my own understanding of documentary process.

The photographs of Baizakh – as with the monochrome images – were all spontaneous images taken in snatched times of day fitted around my consultancy work. There was no possibility because of transport to add on any time specifically for photography and a more purposive documentary with informal interviews, planned portraits etc. They therefore represent what I saw:

  • at very specific times of day: early morning, lunchtime break and late afternoon.
  • in specific locations between where I lived with a few participants on the outskirts of the village, not nearer the centre of the village (unlike Asel and many other participants) or more built up parts.
  • at a specific time of year: late Spring when all was green and warm in sunshine, apart from storms. Not 16 degree below zero winter or heat of summer.

I aim to produce a publication with distinctive photographs (unlike the general run of tourist photos) and more unusual/provocative text that could be of interest to people in development agencies, internationally and in Kyrgyzstan itself (translated to Kyrgyz/Russian) and a socially interested tourist audience.

Baizakh revisited:
review of Blurb colour photobook

The earlier Blurb Photobook brought together a technical selection of photos based on what I thought were immediately attractive or provocative images from my outsider perspective – beauty of the mountains and light at dawn and sunset, distinctive textures and colours of gates, dramatic weather, some people, animals and plastic pollution. It was put together very quickly as part of my initial learning process in Lightroom, using Lightroom layout templates exported to Blurb. This enabled very rapid experimentation and a reasonably consistent look. Although my experience of digital processing in Lightroom was also very rudimentary at that time.

My first step was therefore to go through each spread in detail in the light of what I had subsequently learned about Book Design, and also digital processing of more problematic photos from the camera. Combined with ideas from my background reading on Kyrgyzstan and reports on women and men’s visions and realities from the workshops I had been facilitating.

  • Baizakh Original Cover Full Spread
  • Baizakh Original Spreads Cover Front
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 0-1
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 2-3
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 4-5
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 6-7
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 8-9
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 10-11
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 12-13
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 14-15
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 16-17
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 18-19
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 20-21
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 22-23
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 24-25
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 26-27
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 28-29
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 30-31
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 32-33
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 34-35
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 36-37
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 38-39: Sunset
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 40-41
  • Baizakh Original Spreads 42-43

First redraft: Coloured Lives

I revisited the whole series of original images and:

  • re-select and re-edit the colour photographs, focusing on content and meaning rather than technical quality, using my skills developed in Assignment 2.2 Shutterscapes to bring more technically problematic images to an appropriate technical level.
  • use InDesign and Photoshop to give a better layout with my own text from memories, brief notes and reports on peoples’ views expressed in the workshops and on-line information/Kyrgyz texts building on approaches to image and text in book design from Part 3 Image and Text.

My idea for text is to:

  • on the image pages to incorporate Kyrgyz sayings, poems and stories from the workshop participants, as attractive integrated overlays using Photoshop. I need to consult on fonts and what people can read easily.
  • to include spreads/sections with text at the back for feedback on the book from :
    1. people in Baizakh – which images do they like and/or think represents their life, what is left out and/or misrepresented, anything else they would like to say.
    2. other workshop participants who were in Baizakh with me at the time – what did they think was different about Baizakh from their own place? which images do they like and/or think represents Baizakh as they saw it, what is left out and/or misrepresented, anything else they would like to say.
    3. people in Bishkek – both people like Asel and others who know Baizakh, and artists/photographers/international development staff.
    4. people from my international development network including Africa and elsewhere in Asia
    5. people from UK/socially interested tourists who do not know Kyrgyzstan

I sent this new book to my main reviewer and colleague in Kyrgyzstan – Asel Kuttubaeva – for initial feedback. This included many questions and suggestions for text. I shared this using Adobe Connect (for initial feedback in English) and Facebook (to enable multilingual feedback discussion with more people in Kyrgyzstan through Google Translate). But in the end everything was sent by email as Word documents in English or Russian that I could translate with Word Translate.

Asel gave me some detailed feedback, with other preliminary feedback from her friends in Kyrgyzstan. See pdf on the right. I then revised this into a provisional draft for further feedback as below. This provisional draft now needs to be shared with people from Baizakh and other workshop participants from other parts of Kyrgyzstan for their feedback and suggestions. I also need their permission to reproduce some of their stories. It was not possible to get this before beginning November because of COVID travel and meeting restrictions. It is unlikely that feedback will be possible in the current COVID and extremely cold season. So this is now anticipated sometime April 2021 and over the summer, during which time I will also be able to link it with further on-line consultancy.

I also start to look at what potential markets in Kyrgyzstan might be interested in in terms of images and text. A key question if I want to take this in a commercial direction will be:

  • cost – which audiences might be able/interested in paying how much for how many pages and what format/quality. Currently for Blurb, standard paper. About GBP15 cost price gives 64 pages with some allowance for postage. But I could look at possibilities of cheaper bulk printing?
  • from feedback so far it is possible that a commercial audience in Kyrgyzstan might be more interested in a book with the more creative photography.
  • should this be a charity publication to get funding for Women’s Associations and/or from development agencies with more text from workshop participants?
  • or should I just make it available as an e-pub for free on-line accessibility? if so I need to think about file size, format/s and platform/s
  • A further issue would be translation and what this means for text layout.

NOTE: This feedback pdf will be updated as things progress. And attractively laid out. So there are blank pages at the moment. Please ignore.

CuckoosatDawn_feedback

Spread Gallery

(very compressed)