Info Shymkent - Photographer Farhat Kabdykairov from Kazakhstan in a sunflower field

Mathematical solutions for composition & light: Photographer Farhat Kabdykairov

Farhat Kabdykairov talked with us about his life journey from a well skilled mathematician to a professional photographer and and his greatest experiences.

Info Shymkent: Hello Farhat, how are you? Where are you now?

Farhat: I’m fine. Currently I am in my hometown, in Almaty.

Info Shymkent: Farhat, can you tell us about yourself, please. Why did you choose the way of a photographer?

Farhat: My name is Farhat Kurmetovich Kabdykairov, I’m an academic mathematician by profession. Ethnically pure Kazakh, my father is from the Berish tribe from the Atyrau region. For example, Sultan Baibars and Kazakh warrior and poet Makhambet Otemisuly are descendants of Berish. I’m interested into mathematics since my childhood and I graduated at the Physics-Mathematics State School in Almaty and studied at Lomonosov State University of Moscow, where I got my PhD with the thesis Relations in the Two-Dimensional Cremona Group over a Perfect Field. As a student and then later a PhD student in Moscow, I became seriously interested in photography.

Info Shymkent - Farhat Kabdykairov studied at Lomonosov University
Before Farhat Kabdykairov devoted himself to photography, he successful studied at the Lomonosov State University of Moscow. (Image: F. Kabdykairov)

I was working in several jobs (as a janitor, a loader, phone attendant for students) to earn money for cameras and lenses. Basically as a mathematician I could go to any country, including the USA – but I returned to Kazakhstan and got a job at the Academy of Sciences of the Kazakh SSR as a senior researcher. But by my free nature given by my horoscope – I am a Sagittarius – I decided to devote myself entirely to photography.

I like all kinds of genres of photography: portrait, fashion, landscape, wildlife, architecture, studio, subject shooting, macro, reportage and aerial photography. The variety of genres of photography and their specifics, almost mathematical solutions for composition and light. This is what attracts me to the photography profession, and this is the reason why I still love my work! So far, I have never been disappointed in my choice! You could work in the government or in a Bank, but this is not my job! And many of my friends in high positions are respecting my decision.

Info Shymkent: Can you tell us how was your first experience as a photographer? When you switched to this professionally, how was your feeling?

Farhat: For the first time I photographed Lake Kaindy, and a month later there was a mudflow, and half of the water on this lake flowed out. And then I realized how unique time and events are. A popular Kazakhstani magazine liked my photos and the Soviet union television used my pictures as splash screen in the Vremya (Russian: Time) program, and I was paid for the first time as a photographer. So this was the first experience of my professional activity.

Info Shymkent - Impressive Kelinshektau range in Turkistan, Kazakhstan (Image: Farhat Kabdykairov)
Impressive Kelinshektau range in Turkistan region, close to Shymkent (Image: Farhat Kabdykairov)

The competition that has followed all my life, for example at school and as a student, this is the think what I need! It helps more to develop and to move forward. I think about photography 24 hours a day, now I have all the cameras and accessories I need, a great studio with the best light. In one word: I am a happy person who has all the tools to achieve the goal!

Info Shymkent: We love your photographies. They are very different: From nature to architecture. You have very different themes in front of the camera. What do you prefer most? Nature, architecture, animals or people? And why?

Farhat: I am certainly pleased with your attention to my work! As I said, I like to shoot all genres. I never think about the fee, first of all, I am attracted by the problem and its most beautiful solution. If we telling about my scrupulous approach to everything, then the most difficult thing seems to be advertising photography of people, where you need to combine the efforts of a huge number of specialists and the condition of the location. In my opinion, the contribution of the photographer here is minimal, although he gets all of the laurels without any deserve.

For me just photographing people is not interesting anymore, because at first there have to be an original idea, and then a plan and its implementation. Recently, my work is related to the release of photo albums in Kazakhstan. I also work as a publisher, controlling every stage in the chain of this process, including printing in the printing machine. I like being on trips with colleagues, communicating with them around the fire, living in tents, in a word: bonfire romantic!

Info Shymkent: On your Instagram account, we are often recognizing that you are using different photo cameras. Which brand of camera do you prefer most?

Farhat: It is very difficult to answer this question, as there is no perfect camera. For landscape photography I use high-end brands such as Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, Linhof, Sinar and Pentax, as well as optics from brands such as Rodenstock and Schneider. They give the best quality at the moment. This allows me to produce huge enlargements prints where you can see the smallest details and texture in it. These are all the costs of my incorrigible maximalism. I shoot photo reportage and wild animals on Nikon, for which I have about 40 lenses for different purposes and situations. By the way, I didn’t like Canon, Sony and Fujifilm, and I don’t use them in my work. I haven’t tried the Leica brand yet – but I hope to do so in the future!

Info Shymkent: We know that Photography and Photo Art is very popular in Europe, in America, etc. But how popular is Photography or Photo Art in Kazakhstan?

Farhat: I have a very good attitude to photo art! I really like this direction in photography! I can’t say anything about the popularity in Kazakhstan, because I don’t have the relevant source. I don’t know Photoshop very well and I regret it very much. But I often admire clever pictures in this direction on the Internet.

Info Shymkent: Can you tell us the most wonderful, unforgettable moment in your career? And the most memorable moment during the Expedition?

Farhat: I am a passionate sports fan since 1970! I remember football, hockey, tennis, basketball and many other sports events, including the Olympics! I always dreamed to make pictures of sports legends such as Leoni Messi, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, etc. And my dream came true in 2018 and 2019, when I was able to get accreditation by my own expense to go to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and also I made pictures of two of the three greatest tennis players. For some of the photographers it was just a job, but for me it was a huge orgasm! Being in the huge bowl of the football arenas and seeing my idols, catching their movements – this was the quintessence of my childhood and youthful dreams! I shot eight terabytes of football footage in Raw image format and now I can print out huge posters of my idols! And I saw fan carnivals and it was real happiness! And also, I saw many of the most beautiful places in Kazakhstan at different times of the year with my friends and it was – believe me – delightful!

Info Shymkent - Wind over the singing Dunes in Altyn Emel National park of Kazakhstan (Image: Farhat Kabdykairov)
Wind over the singing Dunes in Altyn Emel National park of Kazakhstan (Image: Farhat Kabdykairov)

Info Shymkent: Which equipment you don’t want to miss / forget in the Expedition?

Farhat: There are so many equipment for different purposes that it does not fit, sometimes, in two cars! Every camera and lens is dear to me and waiting their own time, so I have to take everything with me! I always need an assistant so that he can drive a car, and carry a heavy load, and be a good friend! Then the trip will be perfect!

Info Shymkent: In your opinion, how have to be a photographer?

Farhat: The photographer should be funny, thoughtful, versatile, athletic and a good conversationalist. It would be good if he has also music skills. With such person I would like to go on an expedition. And of course, a good driver!

Info Shymkent: What are your plans for the future? About what are you dreaming?

Farhat: My dream is to go to places like Moraine Lake in Canada, Patagonia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Matterhorn in Switzerland, Iceland to see the Polar Lights … I love diving and to do underwater photography. My dream is to shoot the most beautiful and exotic butterflies! I want to shoot with Leica S3! I missed shooting fashion and high-quality Still Life!

Info Shymkent: Thank you very much for this wonderful interview, Farhat. It was a very nice dialogue with you. You are a very interesting person!

See more impressive pictures from Photographer Farhat Kabdykairov: