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I remember seeing images of Kyrgyzstan for the first time on television, in March 2005. There were scenes of excited Asian-looking men rushing toward an imposing Soviet style administration building. They entered the building, vandalizing, even pillaging, all they found. Then, on the roof, a scene of men proudly brandishing a flag. This event was called the “Tulip Revolution”. One could read in the press that the Kyrgyz people, motivated by social injustice, had just overthrown the authoritarian and corrupt regime of President Askar Akayev and had replaced him with Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
It was a few years later, when the little country, no longer in the limelight, had been completely forgotten, that I visited Kyrgyzstan for the first time. Aided by a grant, I set out to discover what the Tulip “Revolution”, which was supposed to lead to a democratic transition in the country, had really accomplished. This so-called revolution seemed to have been no more than a power grab. The elections were rigged; the media censured, perhaps even more than previously; political opponents were arrested. Kyrgyzstan was considered one of the 15 most corrupt countries in the world. Even today 40% of the population live below the poverty line, and at least as many look back with nostalgia to the Soviet era. Today one speaks of the Tulip Revolution as a coup d’état disguised as a popular revolution.
I continued to visit the country in the course of several trips. I was confronted by the growing instability which would lead, eventually, to the bloody riots of April 2010. It was a new revolution, perhaps a bit more authentic this time. The nepotistic Bakyiev was overthrown in his turn and found asylum in Belorussia, as had Akayev five years earlier. There followed a period of great unrest during which Osh, the major city in South, was the scene of anti-Uzbek pogroms.
Some say that the young country has never really recovered from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and that what it is going through today is still the painful apprenticeship of independence.
Faded Tulips is a trip through a young country at the crossroads of different worlds, born out of the break-up of the Soviet Union 20 years ago.
It is an immersion in the daily life of a disenchanted people living amidst the ruins of their past and whose present is undermined by poverty, clannishness, and chronic instability, a explosive mixture.
William’s work revolves around social issues and humanitarian concerns mostly focusing on isolated or weakened communities. He has worked on many global issues such as the 3 main pandemics -Malaria, Aids and Tuberculosis- the Tsunami aftermaths in Asia, Haiti earthquake aftermaths, and he has been working on Kyrgyzstan since late 2007, among others issues. Recently he covered the Libyan conflict on assignment for Polka magazine.
His long-term work on malaria was exhibited in partnership with the Global Fund on the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris, in London, at the European parliament in Brussels, and he published it in the book Mauvais Air. His images appear regularly in French and international press: Time, Newsweek, Le Monde, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Polka and he was Awarded once at world press photo, 3 times at Picture of the year and shortlisted in many international awards such as Anthropographia and Sony Awards.
He is represented by Panos Pictures.