2017 Nikon-SFK Documentary Photography Training Program in Kazakhstan


The 2017 Kazakhstan NOOR-SFK Documentary Photography Training Program was developed to encourage and support photographers from Kazakhstan to develop their skills in documentary photography & visual storytelling. Over the course of the program, nine participants selected through an open call for applications were mentored & taught by NOOR photographers Tanya Habjouqa, Sebastian Liste, together with NOOR Alumni Timur Karpov, Elyor Nematov & Daria Tuminas. The program was moderated by NOOR’s Education Director, Asmara Pelupessy.

Participants & tutors came together for an intensive workshop in Almaty between 12 to 15 October 2017. During these days, participants shared their portfolios & projects with tutors, listened to & discussed tutor presentations on practical & creative issues, developing their project concepts & pitches throughout. On 13 October, we opened the doors to the training with a public lecture from Tanya & Sebastián & special NOOR 10th Anniversary screening at KIMEP University.

The training program has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Soros Foundation Kazakhstan & Open Society Foundation’s Documentary Photography Project, with additional support from Nikon Kazakhstan & through partnership with MediaNet.

Below you can have a peak at the participants’ work. Click here for a short clip about the program.


Kelis Bahtiyar


The Mountains float in lilac mist, A priest’s journey in the mountains

Almaty is almost circled by mountains, so hiking and climber culture is broadly developed among the city residents. Today I would like to tell you about one of them. Alexandr is a mountain climber and a priest.

The project is not finished yet.

Kelis Bahtiyar

Kelis Bahtiyar was born December 18th, 1996 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He became interested in photography in 2011 and entered photography class in Kasteeva arts school the same year. In 2015, Bahtiyar enrolled in Zhurgeneva academy of arts for the specialty cinematography. His main genres of photography are street and documentary photography


Bek Maratov


10 brave souls

Most of disabled people in Kazakhstan have a closed lifestyle. they do not leave their home, do not participate in the life of society.

Despite all the difficulties associated with the lack of infrastructure for people with disabilities, some of the them found the courage to live and interesting life. these persons made decisions to live this was by themselves. The goal of this project is to find 10 persons with disabilities who, despite their illness and other factors, live an active life, develop themselves, set goals and achieve them.

1st person of the ten is Akbota Ongarova. she is 25 years old. her diagnosis - rheumatoid Polyarthritis.

Bek Maratov

Bek Maratov is freelance photographer based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He started study photography in 2012. He is passionate in documentary photography and visual storytelling. The main area of his interests are social issues, people, religion. He perceives a documentary photography as a way of exploring the subject domain to get a personal viewpoint.


Lyailya Turlybekova



Many people think that I am 28 year old good looking, nice, smart, funny person. If you look at me you would never think that I could be unhappy, scared and terrified of my condition: sensitive, aggressive, unsociable, hyper sociable or everything listed at the same time. There are many people like me, however not many talk about it. I get labeled with definitions that are convenient to identify and “diagnose” my personality - depressive, aggressive, angry, etc. Normally no one wonders what caused such mental state, and rarely could see or understand that there is a legitimate reason behind it.

I want to end the taboo around talking about mental health, depression and how that is still seen as a sign of weakness. This project is about my way out of depression without antidepressants.

Through therapy, understanding of me, my history and my soul.

Lyailya Turlybekova

Lyailya Turlybekova (Kazakhstan, 1989) is a multiple media artist with a primary interest in installations and photography.

Her interest in photography started in 2009 as a hobby. After getting a Civil engineering degree in 2012 from the University of Manchester she started to learn fine art – graphic drawings, live sketching, oil painting. After that she freelanced as a graphic designer and an illustrator. In 2016 and 2017 she took part in modern art exhibitions in Almaty and Astana. In 2016 Lyailya participated in IOM/ The UN Migration Agency photostory project “Migrants: An Invisible Force in Central Asia”.

Project #faceofdepression is her first own documentary project describing her experience of depression and way out of it.


Grinkevich Maria


Mendelssohn’s Wedding March

I'm crushed. You know… It’s shit to suddenly discover yourself being a single mother. That definitely wasn’t part of my wish list. It feels like you drive with the speed of 200 miles per hour and slam into the concrete wall. Everything’s falling apart. All your balanced and arranged life. It hurts.

Now you need to collect yourself piece by piece and learn how to live again. You start behaving like a bitch who would gnaw through one's throat in case anybody wants to offend your kids. You are in constant struggle with the outer world: with the society, the state, ex-husband’s relatives. However, the inner struggle is even tougher: shame, guilt, despair, self-pity and pity for children, resentment. You don't sleep, you binge eat, you work like a dog. At the same time, you create a special safety cocoon for your kid, the world just for two of you. His happy childhood is now the zone of your responsibility only.

You are invisible. The state now prefers not to see you. You can easily stay without means for existence. There are no social packages, no special conditions for neither nursery nor kindergarten. A single mother doesn’t exist in Kazakhstan.

My project is about single parenting. I want to tell about what we hoard in our independence. I started to shoot this project in August 2017, and it’s in progress.

As the result, the project will be presented as a photobook, an exhibition, and at online media. Work plan: I will conduct a series of interviews and photo shoots with the project’s participants. I will also collect children’s drawings that would relate to the subject of the project. Region: Kazakhstan. In the future, I plan to broaden the borders of the projects and work at Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and other countries of the Central Asia.

Grinkevich Maria

Grinkevich Maria (1981, Almaty, Kazakhstan) is a lawyer and a freelance photographer.

In her projects, she studies such themes as parenthood and childhood, as well as the biological, psychological and social aspects of motherhood. She has collaborated with the analytical media resourse 365info.kz.


Oleg Bitner


Lullabies for Alyona

In Karaganda city, Kazakhstan there is a center for K9therapy. I wanted to talk about how training with trained dogs helps children, patients with cerebral palsy. Having started shooting, in one of the classes I met a four-year-old girl Alyona. She was brought to school by her mother - Svetlana.

During my life as a photo reporter, I had many meetings with patients with cerebral palsy. Regardless of their age, I feel sympathy, nevertheless, always felt an invisible border, for which I would not like to step over. Meeting with Alyona and Svetlana allowed me to forget about that border.

This is a story about a mother who has not lowered her hands and is struggling for the health of her daughter. They try to attend courses of physiotherapy and massage, take pool lessons and also have lessons with specially trained dogs and horses to work with kids who have similar diagnosis. This is a story about a girl who smiles at specialists who a minute ago caused her unbearable pain during the procedures. Their life and their relationship are in this story.

All in all the story is about hope...

Oleg Bitner

Oleg Bitner is a freelance photographer, cameraman, currently based in Kazakhstan, Karaganda with experience in Central Asia and Western Europe. He focuses on the issues of social problems, identity and human rights violations.


Ongarbaev Sanat


The Former Sea

The Aral Sea is an ulcer on the Earth’s body. 50 years ago, its inflows Amu Darya and Syr Darya were turned in order to irrigate Uzbekistan’s cotton fields and rice plantations. That’s when the slow countdown to death of the Aral Sea began. The overall sea’s reservoir has shrunk and declined to 10% of its original size. In 2005, a dam was built, which made it possible for one third of the sea get restored. It allowed to raise the sea’s water level by 30 m. However, it hasn’t saved the situation - the large sea is drying out. Abandoned ships stay there as memorials to the former sea borders of the Aral Sea. They are located in the former sea gulf Sarishiganak (Kazakhstan) nearby a former harbor Mo’ynoq (Karakalpakia, Uzbekistan). The Aral Sea was a sea in the past. It will never get back to life again. This project is in the first stage of its development. Its goal is to attract the international attention to preserving a unique water reservoir that is essential for the life of people from this region.

Ongarbaev Sanat

Documentary photographer. His works have been published at the online platform Bird in flight.


Viktoriya Li



69% of the Kazakhstani population are Muslims due to the 2009 national census. The person being raped or lost virginity before marriage or dated a person of another ethnicity considers to be shamed there by the traditional parts of the society. This specific kind of shame which appears as a result of breaking some unwritten cultural rules means “uyat” in Kazakh. Uyat is especially held strongly in the Western and Southern regions of the country and mainly deals with women. With this project I research different uyat experiences to find and mark the limits which society preserves all out.

Viktoriya Li

Viktoriya Li works as a full-time journalist and a part-time photojournalist. Alumni of DocDocDoc photoschool, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.


Vladimir Tretyakov


Crazy about...

It’s difficult for people with mental disorders to find a partner. Institutions in which mentally challenged people are often kept from early childhood onwards don’t support intimate or romantic relationships. But this kind of connection is a basic human need. Also for mentally challenged people.

This project (in progress) is about an experimental program at Alramy Center in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan that has taken mentally challenged individuals and couples out of institutions to live independently, work and have families. I spent time with three couples who are participants of this program, observing and understanding their relationships.

Vladimir and Oksana Pavlodar created a family and gave a birth to a healthy child. Valery and Natalia on the other hand, would like to get married, but their relatives are against it. It happens quite often that society is against mentally challenged people getting married and having children. However, the connection between mental disorders and genetics hasn’t been studied enough. The Pavlodar family is a good example that the diagnosis is not necessarily passed on to the children.

Vladimir Tretyakov

Vladimir Tretyakov is a photojournalist spotlighting social, economic and political themes. He also works with longer term human interest stories. Vladimir sees reportage as a tool to make a strong impression on the viewer, reader and those who can make changes. He prefers to work on location - here and now - be that emergencies, military trainings, long-awaited openings or scandalous finissages. Vladimir also teaches photojournalism at various trainings and institutions.