George Kolotov is a photographer and filmmaker, based in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. He has over 20 years of professional experience in media industry. His most notable achievements to-date are in documentary photography and still photography.
Started his career in media production in 90th, co-founded his own production studio in 1999, he has passed the way from a Video Editor to Technical Director. As well, for the next ten years, he has mastered additional professions of a Cameraman and Still Photographer.
In 2009 he left his studio and went out on his own as a freelance filmmaker and photographer. For that moment his photo projects were already exhibited at several photo exhibitions in Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; he was repeatedly invited as a Juror at the Annual Photo Contests organized by the United Nations Development Programme in Kyrgyzstan. Also, in 2007 his art work was included into the book “20-21. Fine Arts in Kyrgyzstan”, published by Gapar Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts, alongside with the most renowned and famed Kyrgyzstan artists.
In 2010 he represented the Kyrgyz Republic in the International Visitors Leadership Program on “Documentary Filmmaking in the U.S.” organized by the USDOS. In the same year he was invited to instruct on audio, video and photography at the Journalism and Mass Communication Department of the American University of Central Asia (AUCA). Since 2011, he conducts own independent courses on photography, visual literacy and digital storytelling, including specially developed training programs for Open Society Foundations and Institute for War & Peace Reporting in Kyrgyzstan, as well as public workshops.
In the next years he was actively involved in the covering of various pressing social problems of our times to mobilize attention and resources for the betterment of those who most need them. Among his notable documentary projects are “Wrong Childhood”, a two-year photo story about children living in one of the Kyrgyz orphanages; “Morning” – documentary about the life of an abandoned disabled person; “Dasha and Her Friends” – personal voluntary long-term documentary about one of the first hospital clowns working at the Kyrgyzstan National Cancer Center and others.
In 2015 he was recognized as a “Distinguished Artist” in the field of Photography in Israel.
Since 2016 he lives in the U.S.
“Kyrgyzstan Faces. Life In a Frame” TV-Program of the Interstate Broadcasting Company “MIR”, TV Channel “MIR 24”. In Russian with English subtitles.
Was aired on June 02, 2014.
Author – Irina Litvyakova.
Cameraman – Alexander Gubin.
Video Editor – Mukanbet Asanov.
“Let Truth Be the Prejudice” Article by a New York-based art historian Dmitry Kiyan on the www.photographer.ru – an expert online resource for promotion and development of photography in Russia. Published on December, 2012. In Russian (Please see English version below).
Let Truth Be the Prejudice
The pretext for this topic in the brief form as follows arose last summer, when I had to lecture on documentary photography and photographic ethics, to conduct classes to students from different regions of Central Asia within the youth initiative at the Issyk-Kul Lake, located four hours’ drive from Bishkek. Then I happened to work closely with photographer George Kolotov. He is a not tall man, wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the San Francisco festival of documentary film, blue “Levis” and black sneakers. During his lectures, he focused the students’ attention by speaking passionately, in clear and easy-to-understand language, tactfully and in professional way. He poured jokes, whereafter the students needed a pause, to calm down.
George was born and grew up in Kyrgyzstan. Generally, he also works and shoots there. In addition, he lectures the photography courses in Bishkek, formerly Frunze, the capital of the republic. His artistic biography also includes the participation in the creation of five feature films as film editor and camera operator. At the Issyk-Kul, we worked together very closely, discussed the organizational and creative aspects of the daily program of teaching, edited the footage with the students from the morning until late at night. We have got tired. But it was a creative fatigue. The next morning, we got to work with renewed strength, thanks to a clean air and a half thousand meters above sea level, the mountains and the crystal Issyk-Kul in the five-minute walk.
Toward the end of classes, a Kolotov’s wife, Nadia, came for a few days to the lake. She brought with their little daughter Sasha. In the spare times, one could see George walking with her: he ran with short steps on one alley in front of her, and she caught up. Then he took her and picked her up – one, two, three. The daughter laughed, holding tightly in his strong hands.
Many years later, the today’s topic for Sasha, if she would wish to learn about it, will be a history from the very distant past. The basis is a documentary series of black-and-white photographs of an orphan asylum, on which George Kolotov had worked in 2011 and 2012. Everything began when one evening, having returned from the market of microscopic town Bostyri with full of grapes, peaches and apples, we sat down at the table in front of the opened door of a small cottage and started browsing various photographic stories during the conversation. Then I saw one of the Kolotov’s shooting and learned about the related events. The photos were not forgotten, but drew a chain of moments, accented at different time.
Nobody has cancelled the concept of journalistic impartiality, and every journalist is free to choose the extent of involvement in problematic issue. Therefore is the conversation on how a humanistic photography can contribute to resolving of a very specific problem; on the fact when relating to the definition of prejudice a photographer is guided by the words of Eugene Smith: let truth be the prejudice.
So, the topic is based on Krasnorechensk orphan asylum. It is twenty kilometres from Bishkek – the institution for over a hundred children, which, like a number of others similar ones, until recently was a forgotten little state within a large state, as it is often with the others similar ones, which are scattered across the former Soviet Union space. George Kolotov dedicated a few months of the two years of his life directly to this orphan asylum. In fact, he has started to work with this topic in 2010. According to him, driven by a desire to understand why one need to come back here, he soon realized that “the children, living there, are much superior and better than any other people in many aspects”.
That his first material remained unpublished at the request of the staff of the orphan asylum. But a year later he was contacted by the acquaintances. The others interested in the project with the sounded range of problems, so it was continued and became a part of the assistance program. The tangible changes has not kept waiting for long…
The photos, captured in orphan asylums, as the photos on the problematic and difficult topics in general cause a discussion on the author’s responsibility, which he takes over, on the aspiration (or lack of aspiration) to go further, to awaken in the hearts of people a willing to help – on the active involvement. Anyone interested knows more than a dozen of photojournalists, who shoot a considerable amount of good works. The talented ones are the attentive observers, which can see the topic, understand it and talk about it, emphasize the details and set accents. At some point, some of them become documentaries. Not all. And not all of them need it. Those who need, often face the problem of the end result – when the photographic series on social issues must start living an independent life: to be published, shown, to cause response and reaction in the society, and, ideally, the actions, aimed to solve the sounded problem. It does not always happen. It is not always so easy.
Even if the photographer more or less constantly works for any media, the specifics of editorial policy of contemporary socio-political print media is such that the topicality of events sometimes requires only their latest coverage. Nowadays, the magazines rarely publish materials on which the photographer could work independently and long enough, so the topic, which began as a photographic essay, with time acquired the character of a thoughtful story. In rare cases, the solitary of them can boast of extensional materials for a few columns, claiming to be called documentary and ringing a bell in society – similar to those that created the reputation of the media of the past decades. This does not mean anymore, and this practice is the case of the past years. It is understood that the documentary today rather lives in another dimension: placed on the personal websites and professional competitive or media online resources, on the NGOs’ websites, demonstrated in multimedia format on the screens of workshops and photographic festivals. Whether is it getting closer to the potential audience? Not to those, who already represent a professional community or have been interested in documentary photography for not first year, but to those educated, but not informed young people who are still outside this topic and often not even aware of its significant social potential.
In July and August at the Issyk-Kul, I had a chance to communicate with more than sixty students in the ages of 20 to 26 years, representing all the republics of the former Soviet Asia, except Turkmenistan, and, incidentally, speaking at least three languages that, by definition, broadens horizons. Each of them have managed to approve itself through social activity to some extent. It would seem, here is it, the prepared audience. However, on the first day before the start of the review topic on photojournalism and photo documentation science, the offer to name at least two names of famous photographers followed by dead silence. You may say what to compare with, but I happened to observe the similar in New York among the college students in the same age category, which were offered with the academic semester at the global photography.
I would like to draw attention to the aspect of social documentation science, which is its artistic component. It is not a secret that in some cases the photographers and artists are equal. There is nothing strange in it, because photography is a visual tool, and many photographers are the real masters of their business. Nowadays, the documentation science in its best examples is as good as the painting in the ability to operate the entire interpretative diversity of images. Some authors, “entrusting their instincts and not thinking about their ego”, as once Cartier-Bresson advised the beginner Sebastião Salgado, remain committed to black-and-white photography in their art. Others work in colour.
Moreover, the artistic side of the issue is not so simple topic. Nowadays – more than ever. Especially in conversation about a socially oriented photography. Modern means of capturing and image processing are as walking on thin ice. The matter can sometimes reach up to the point of absurdity. In 2011, The New York Times Magazine published a series of photos of the rather famous American photojournalist Benjamin Lowe, which he shot via iPhone in the hipstamatic mode. It would not matter anything, unless the events: a period of bloody confrontation between supporters of Gaddafi with the rebels in Libya. It should be mentioned the exchange of remarks on this topic with Sebastian Meyer, an American photographer, who founded the first independent photo agency in Iraq. He reasonably sounded a claim to those who use photo applications: “the aestheticization of war is impossible under any circumstances”. It is difficult to disagree. Indeed, how else, other than unacceptable, in this case, one can understand the use by the photographer journalist of the today’s popular applications out of a desire to convince itself that the documentary of the moment, passed by the direct photographic method, may be “insufficiently perfect” in the visual aspect. The categoriality of conclusion in this case is necessary for maximum emphasis.
Let’s back to the photos by George Kolotov. As any social oriented intellectual material, it is an example of the practical implementation of the thesis “on the aims and objectives”, as the necessary condition to achieve a result. There is no discussion about the social oriented, humanistic photography without such statement of issue. Thanks to the Kolotov’s photographs either, the situation in Krasnorechensk orphan asylum has significantly changed for the better. The photographer simply describes his first visit there: “There was a feeling that I had found myself in the autumn of ninety forty-five”. One year later, the practical side of the issue has been resolved in a way that we managed to reconstruct the old building, to warm it, to repair the roof through which before one could see the sky, to install new windows and doors, to reconstruct flooring. A playground was made; the area was fenced.
We would answer anyone, who says that the topic is too local, that the documentation science has no such meaning, as locality. Having started immediately and not without personal interest of George Kolotov, the issues of this particular orphan asylum involved others in terms of their decision and were put into orbit of regional significance. Yes, if guided by the words of the same Eugene Smith, the photography in the life of shooting person is the small and not the single voice. However, if to think it right and to see the right application of it, sometimes it can cause the necessary reactions in society. And since the great American photographer is mentioned not the first time, let’s remember his photo of suffering Japanese girl Tomoko Uemura, published in Life magazine in June 19725. And of course the resonance, which has been called by it, and the events followed by.
Dmitry Kiyan. New York, November 2012