Gothenburg-based photographer Nissor Abdourazakov realized that few people were particularly familiar with his native country, Tajikistan. Because he visited his parents there every summer, he saw a unique opportunity. In 2013, he decided to create a project in which he would show the world the culture, nature and people of his home country. The result was the “Roof of the World” project and the Profoto B1 was one of the main ingredients for creating these unique photos.
The photos from Tajikistan, which were shown in an exhibition at Scandinavian Photo in September 2016, have varied throughout the years during which Nissor has been documenting the country. During the first year, he focused a great deal on photographing the traditional costumes worn by people there, with his wife and others as models.
“In my home country, a lot of people dress the same way they do in Europe, and traditional costumes are forgotten a little. I wanted to document what they look like, because every part of Tajikistan has its own dialect and its own traditional costume,” explains Nissor.
Because few photographers have documented anything similar, Nissor’s photos quickly became popular online and were published in various newspapers. In 2013, before he invested in a Profoto B1, he was using a Profoto Acute B2, an Air Remote and a Softlight Reflector White, and shooting with a Nikon D800, Nikon 85 1.4G and a Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII.
HSS to photograph with a shallow depth of field
In 2014, Nissor decided to focus on portraits of people and their lives up in the mountains. He sold his Acute B2 in order to invest in a Profoto B1 instead.
“I invested in the B1 for its portability and for functions like HSS, for example, which allowed me to take pictures whenever, no matter the time or weather,” he says.
Nissor uses HSS, or High-Speed Sync , to be able to photograph his subjects with a shallow depth of field, usually at an aperture of 2.0 or 1.4, and without being limited by the camera’s usual maximum sync time. For light shaping tools, he usually uses a Profoto Umbrella Deep, a Zoom Reflector or an OCF Softbox 2' Octa with a grid.
“I love shooting with a shallow depth of field and fall 2014 was revolutionary for me, when I could finally use the TTL and High-Speed Sync together with the Profoto B1 and Nikon D810. I have no problem photographing manually with the flashes, but it’s so nice to shoot with TTL and HSS when you’re short on time,” he says.
Profoto B1 & B2 for an easier work flow
During his third year, he documented portraits of people who live at a high elevation – 4,860 meters above sea level. Before that trip, he invested in yet another Profoto B1 as well as a Profoto B2. The mountains were a tough environment for photography. Sometimes it was over 50°C and sometimes it was 5° below zero.
“The Profoto flashes worked perfectly, despite the shifting climate. And I wouldn’t have been able to do it without TTL. I usually have less than a minute to take pictures of passersby. It was important to me to be able to take pictures without disturbing their daily work and that’s why I chose the Profoto B1 and B2, because they simplify my work flow,” he says.
First camera at age 6
In addition to his background as a classical pianist, Nissor has worked as a photographer since 2012. “I’m very interested in photographing people and telling a story through the pictures,” he says.
He developed an interest in photography early, when he received his first camera at the age of six. “A friend of my father’s had his own darkroom and I got to learn how to develop photos. I remember that when I saw how the pictures appeared in the darkroom, it awakened a really special feeling for me. Unfortunately, it was short-lived, because the camera broke just a year later,” he says.
The years passed and while Nissor was a student at the Royal College of Music, he took pictures of his friends and at concerts. He quickly saw that proper lighting was the key to high-quality photos. He invested in three Profoto D1 flashes and two softboxes for in-studio photography. Today, however, his work is usually on location and he specializes in portraits and weddings.
“My best tip for portraits is to communicate. In addition to everything you need to know to take a good photo, as a photographer you have to be able to communicate with people – show interest in your subject,” he says.
The “Roof of the World” project is not over yet. Nissor plans to return this summer to continue to document his home country. He will visit a village high up in the mountains, unreachable by car.
“You either have to walk there or rent donkeys,” he says. “About 2,500 people live in the village and they speak such an ancient language that no one else in the world understands them. They don’t communicate with the modern world at all. I’m really looking forward to photographing them and the surrounding environment. And of course, I’ll have my Profoto B1 and B2 with me.”
You can see more pictures from the project on Nissor’s website and Instagram, and in a short video on YouTube.