A photographer's unique view of Kazakhstan

Story highlights

  • Uriel Sinai won the World Press Photo for his coverage of Israeli resettlement from the Gaza Strip
  • In 2006, he traveled to post-soviet republics to document the change in the region
  • His photos explores the post-soviet revival of Islam in Kazakh culture

Uriel Sinai's affection for Kazakhstan started as a straightforward reporting assignment.

The World Press Photo award-winning photographer went to Kazakhstan and other central Asian republics in 2006 to capture how they had changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"It was quite amazing, I didn't expect to see what I saw there," he says.

Visually, it was the blend of the new and the old that attracted him to Kazakhstan. "Seeing the mixture of things that are very much Soviet-like and then the current Kazakhstan, with its wealth and money," he says. "That really struck me."

Being an Iran-born Israeli national, Sinai's chances of ever visiting his real birthplace are slim. Having no memories of Iran (he left as a baby), he looks for hints of his birthplace elsewhere.

"I am always trying to feel the place. Everywhere I go, I am trying to feel this place that I am not able to go to."

Kazakhstan and its vast steppes, rural areas, mosques and arid climate reminded him of Iran more than anything. "I think it is as close as I can get to somewhere close to where I came from," he says.

He says he felt the connection while driving for hours through the rural countryside. 'You can really feel it in Kazakhstan," he says. "You can feel Iran in the air."