29 September 2016

Three days in Kazakhstan

I kept this story secret for one year, but the funeral of Shimon Peres the 28th of september 2016 gave me a legitimate reason to share my archives and this incredible professional experience I had.

It was right after Burning Man, exactly two days after I came back from San Francisco. Getting just enough time to get rid of the desert dust, clean my photography equipment, grab a suit and get ready for a highly confidential mission.

The Presidential Palace of Kazakhstan… really ?

At that time, one of my client was a Franco-Syrian politician figure and I became over time her personal photographer. I started attending some kind of confidential meetings in Paris, shooting ambassadors, former presidents, ministers…

To be honest, I never expect to do this one day. It wan’t exciting on an artistic point of view, but all this context was very exciting, like in a good James Bond movie.

The story begins on the 17 of september 2015, shortly after Burning Man, when a private plane sent by the President of Kazakhstan itself took me and a french delegation to Astana, the capital. I remember the french translator, a woman as very surprised by the situation as me. At that moment, none of us knew exactly what was going to happen.

A “so-called” Summit for Peace.

From the ten principles of Burning Man to the authoritarian regime of Kazakhstan.
From the hippie life to the international political scene.
From a 30 € camping tent, to a five start hotel room.

The contrast was radical. Very radical.

Welcome to Kazakhstan !

The most surreal episode of this adventure came out at the very end, when I was taken to the Presidential Palace ; a sort of megalomaniac empire built in the middle of nowhere, soldiers everywhere. I remember being the only foreign photographer allowed to get inside that day. It was surreal, like in a good spy movie.

While I was waiting inside, I manage to take briefly some images, in an attempt to show the extravagance of the regime through the architecture of the presidential house.

When suddenly, in a sort of a luck timing, I managed to follow a bunch of officials in the presidential meeting room, empty. When Shimon Peres and the president of Kazakhstan finally arrived, I remember the strict protocol that allowed me to stay no more than one minute shooting. My client never knew about this as I was not really suppose to be there.

I kept that photograph unseen until now.

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