BACK TO KYRGYZSTAN: A Photographic Journey With Jean Gaumy

Jean Gaumy’s initial project sought to photograph a Kyrgyz community living in the very high mountains of Tajikistan. However when he arrived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, he found the border was closed due to the recent assassination of a Tajik politician. After a waiting period at the border, it became clear that he had to find a replacement plan. Playing with chance and luck, our protagonist decided to travel to Kyrgyzstan, a place seemingly captured in time, trusting in the people he would meet. Following gut instincts is just part of the photographer’s job, as usual….

This first episode focuses on his arrival in Biskek.


Map of Kyrgyzstan

© Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy
© Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy
© Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy © Jean Gaumy

© Jean Gaumy









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  • Thank you for this video! On one hand I like the combination of motion picture and stills, as well as I like the Magnum series.
    On the other hand I must say that I’m not really impressed by these pictures. I don’t say that Jean Gaumy isn’t a good photographer, but like the photos in the first new M brochure, they look really flat although some scenes seem to be pretty nice. Scrolling through the Leica Blog and comparing those scenes and colors with older posts of the digital M’s or even Film Leicas. It’s almost like loading the Raw Files on the computer and then converting them directly without any changes in color or contrast. It might be his way handling the files but I can’t say that I would be even happy with a print of them. To me they look like taken with a usual Point and Shoot compact set to Standard JPEG. I think it’s maybe the wrong way for handling files present a new camera (maybe the best digital Leica ever) just comparing it to the wonderful “old” M catalog shot by Alex Majoli with the M9P.

  • Thanks a lot for this view into a very different culture! Unlike Martin, I find the pictures to be a great indication for the greater dynamic range that we could expect from the new M and I am encouraged by those pictures. Looking forward to more of Jean’s explorations in the east. Cheers, KM

  • I wonder if these photos were in fact taken with the new M camera. Based on the location of this country, these photos would have to have been taken four to six months ago. These are summer photos and it’s now the middle of winter. Four or six months ago the new M camera firmware was still very much in development.

  • Le Kirghizistan est un sujet formidable. J’apprécie que la vidéo n’est pas été doublée, uniquement sous-titrée.

    L’uniformisation des cultures est un sujet qui devrait être de première importance pour tous (peut-être pour cette raison que j’écris mon commentaire en français!).

    A Shanghai, le centre-ville est remplie de boutiques de montres suisses et de marques internationales de fringues. De façon surprenante, Pékin est encore préservée, mais pour combien de temps encore? Partout, le même phénomène.

  • One can see immediately the difference between the classic CCD sensor and this new CMOS one. These photos looks like Canon. Hopefully, a future firmware would improve this.

  • According to EXIF photos were taken on September 2012, that is why is sunny scenes.

  • … And “looking like Canon” is so baaaaad? All “CCD diehards”, take a pill!

  • I´am little bit disappointed with these first pictures from Jean Gaumy. Almost all of the pictures are “safe” shots except one with CocaCola which has a good idea, timing for street photography. From shots with Leica M and presentation like a something special product I´d like to see more work with DOF, subject isolation,etc..Maybe you will not agree with me but shots like these can be made with any other cameras and you will hardly find differences. I´am writing these words couse when looking from images from M9 with Kodak CCD it has something magic in every picture but I can´t see it here:(

  • Not impressed by these photos at all. Could easily be recreated with a Canon and any cheap SLR lens. There appears to be nothing distinguished about the photos coming from the new M, say, compared to the M9 and Film M cameras.

  • I don’t understand how someone with such a great camera can take such boring, emotionless, everyday snapshots?

    Why not help the cause and showcase what this camera can do? I have mine pre-ordered. Am I going to be the only Leica owner who puts effort and creativity into my compositions and subjects? Not walking, stopping, standing up straight, and snapping a pic.

    Put some friggin’ heart into it. Please.

  • Guys, I’m shocked by the low quality of these images. Look at the skin tones, specifically in people’s faces. Images look flat as hell and tons of what seems to be purple abbreviation in high contrast areas – like the edges of the coka-cola billboard.

    Overall color vibrance look dull and I agree there’s a certain canon feel to those images (and yes, thats a bad thing. I own a 5DMKIII)

    The M9 was lame on so many levels, but you could not argue with that magical positive film-like feel it has in its soul. The images here look like old worn out negative, and I don’t mean that in the good instagramic way 🙂

    One of the reasons I loved images taken by M9 and M8 was the bluish tonality of shadows. This pushed out the warmth of the lit areas and gave images a magical pixar finish.

    Leica, I urge you guys to consider releasing a new M9 (CCD) with a modern rear display, no video and higher ISO with low noise. When it comes to video, Canon will eat you guys alive (I’ve seen the rolling shutter results on the new M – its just useless…)

    Bottom line: please listen to your customers, and reduce the risk you’re taking with this model.

  • As a M9 owner… I’m somewhat underwelmed with those. I was hesitating to pre-order the new M, now I can say I will wait, wait to see more pictures taken bay one, maybe from a better photographer or a little bit more implicated on the subject his taking pictures of.

    This kind of posts doesn’t make very good publicity to Leica, heck go to rangerfinder forums and there is people making amazing photos there with old Bessas, M6 (I’m owner of one too), Contax, etc.

    Please Leica, put this camera in the right hands and show us some wow, otherwise, from the time being I will stick to my M9.


  • The single photos between movie and contact sheet captured with Leica M9.

    Only the photos located on grey contact sheet taken with new Leica M (Type 240). Their aperture values are f/13 & f/16, captured at 25th September 2012, almost four months ago. It’s better to judge the new Leica M after official release of sample photos, with new firmware etc.

  • Steven, I may be a CCD diehard, but these images lack the “3D glossy pop” that you see in both the M8 and M9 files. It may be that it’s shot on f/8 or Sunny 16, but I used to shoot Sony a850 with Zeiss 85 1.4 and later on the Canon 5d MkII with the 50 1.2, 85 1.2 and the 135 and those systems always left me wanting a certain “sparkle” I had seen in portraits taken with Leica systems. At first I thought it was the lenses, but I’ve been shooting my Leica lenses with my wife’s NEX with a Novoflex adapter; it’s close, but not quite there…

    Just my two cents

  • On the white car picture one can see dust spots. Would that mean no solution was found for dust reaching the sensor through the focusing lens?

  • When I look to the exifs, most of the pictures are taken with an M9, or am I wrong?

  • I tend to agree with Martin and Mark. These photos look rather flat and lack the 3D feel one would expect. In my humble opinion, the red and pink are too saturated.

  • I agree with Mark and others. These photos could have been taken with Canon or Nikon. I don’t see the special rendering like M9 has in these photos. Lack of depths, I might say…great DR, yeah, I’ll buy D600 for that alone.

  • So What’s wrong with a Canon ‘like’ image coming from a smaller body like the Leica M? Nothing! My only issue is that these pictures are simply flat, no magic. Not sure why Leica is marketing with these.

  • I’m sorry to say so, but just average (or even below) photos with average quality. Sorry Jean Gaumy, but the only photo which goes a bit beyond the usual snapshots is the one with the coca cola poster. All other are not even quality wise anything special. not really a good example of using an m.

  • Leica should be something different for its price and not similar to any japanise camera. I apologize, but thanks to these photos I would never change my M9

  • Wow…not sure how to say this here goes. Jean Gaumy is an amazing photographer, seriously…google some of his work. With that said, these photos are average, snapshots at best…certainly not worthy of a new camera announcement…and especially for the highly anticipated Leica M240!

    It’s good to know that even masters like Jean have bad days! He was in a photographic paradise with all kinds of opportunities, and this is the best he got??

  • Jean – there is a lot of conjecture as to whether all of these images were taken with the new Leica M. Could you clarify this for us? Thanks 🙂

    • Leica Internet Team

      Thanks for reaching out with your question what camera these images were taken with. Jean Gaumy went to Kyrgyzstan with a Leica M9 in his package, because the Leica M prototype wasn’t ready at that exact moment. However, he just started this series with a M9. In fact, approx. 90% of all photos were taken with a new Leica M. Purporting that all images are from a Leica M was really not our intention. Sorry!! The Kyrgyzstan series will be continued and there are more installments to come, so please stay tuned for more genuine Leica M photos.

  • I agree with others who express disappointment with these shots. Hard to make too many judgments about the camera based on this (photographer’s artistic/composition choices ?, post-processing? , development firmware) so I will suspend judgment for now. There is such a thing as “the Leica look” and these don’t have it for me.

  • Not sure how to interpret it, but the whites do stand out as being particuarly white.

  • So, basically, all the comments above where people are saying that the photos are awful and not as good as the M9…..were actually commenting on photos that were ALL taken on the M9.

  • Very nice pictures!

    For once we received and are able to admire pictures from a so beautiful place, lost in a far region is so great !

    Thanks to the photographer, he is great, and thanks Leica for making us see the world!!!

  • Noting really impressive to see here. No real creativity and not large enough photos to really make any evaluation of the new M. Still waiting to get my hands on some dngs before I can really think if I want to upgrade from my M9.

  • I am very disappointed with these images, both artistically and technically. I really hope that we will see some more convincing results of what the M can achieve before too long….

  • Thanks for sharing but would be nice to see images shot at full aperture (close to it) than just at f/16 and with non wide lens to see more about the rendering….also at night too !!!

  • So, Leica, when are we going to see M-240 pictures? You make me doubt that I can get mine in 1Q-2013 …

  • Tough audience in here. Even another Magnum photographer commented. The Leica internet team cleared things up somewhat. However the heading on the story says Jean Gamay, M-System. Part of the battle that will eventually become tiresome is the NAME of this new camera – the “M”. When one sees “M-System” what do you think? Well, I don’t know anymore. It use to mean any “M” series camera. Nowadays I suppose it might mean the (new) M camera system (type 240, or whatever it’s called). The naming of the camera is awkward, cumbersome and unclear. I have the M2, M4, M6 and M8. Yes, you are right. Perhaps with my even numbered cameras I was looking forward to adding the M10? Good luck to all of you out there in Leica land with your photography. For the record I’m betting the images from the M will be just fine. Content has always been what’s important. W. Eugene Smith used all kinds of different cameras. Nobody looks at a picture of his and says, “Gee that would have been a better photograph if Gene had used a Leica rather than a Miranda”.

  • I agree that the images are not the best to showcase the new M,
    But people are being a bit harsh on the photographer.
    Everyone should just relax a bit. I am sure Leica will not disappoint.

  • This shows me nothing about Hi-ISO ability, that is specifically what I’m after, I’m hardly fussed about any other feature of the camera….. and I didn’t realistically expect they’d do anything about dust, which I’m quite used to dealing with now anyway.

  • These are good photos. Please don’t let your excitement or apprehension over a new camera allow you to disrespect someone’s work. The “Coca-Cola” shot to my mind is the weakest of the bunch. The 2nd photo of the bride in the lower set of images is fantastic.

    If you look closely, only the 3rd, 4th, and 8th photos in the first set say “Leica M (Typ 240)” in the EFIX data. All the rest including the “Coca-Cola” shot were taken with the M9. The photos of the bride in the second set were all taken with the M as well. Most of the negative image quality remarks in this thread were all made in reference to M9 photos.

    The photos from the new camera obviously have a greater tonal range and lower noise levels, this is what people are interpreting as the “Canon” look.

  • For real Leica? If this is the best to which the new M (type 240) aspires then the M9 will be worth a lot to a whole lot of people. All this inspires me to do is to cancel my pre-order for the M (type 240) and happily stay with my M9-P. This is just ridiculous … after sitting on this new M for like 5-months, we get a set of official demonstration photographs that look like P&S snapshots by a Magnum photographer. Imagine if Nikon or Canon launched the D4 or the 1dx with such pedestrian looking images. Just awful.

  • Samples of these new Leica M let me very disappointed. As a Leica M user,I naturally well aware of the characteristics of the Leica M camera . but these Samples made me think new M like Canon and Nikon models’s.This is not a Leica.
    The new Leica M is a shameful thing for the Leica company.

  • Leica Internet Team

    OK, let me jump on this one and state 2 important facts:1) these pictures were taken in October 2012, at a stage at which we did not have but the very first prototypes of the Leica M. That´s the reason why Jean went to Kyrgyzstan only with the M9 to begin shooting and was brought a prototype of the M after a few days; 2) this is the begining of a series which shows how a photographers works in real life on a timely limited assignement and in that case copes with a subject that does not jump into your face. This is not about showing proofs of performance for the Leica M; this cannot be compared with a personal photo project for which the photographer has more time and freedom. Out of respect for a photographer that engages his name on this challenge, I´d like you to keep this in mind.
    By the way…..this is how Leica is: we don´t present you technical perfect pictures of a beautiful scenery taken with a tripod, we show you a photographer at work. I am sure that you´ll be able to see the first technical tests from independant testers pretty soon.
    ^JJ with Leica

  • Let me tell :I am not at all convinced by these pictures. The exif shows a mix of M9 and new M (typ 240) pictures. The skin tones on the ladies in wedding dress are just ugly.
    I don’t find either the M9 ones (Coca Cola picture) worthy of an M9 !
    The photograph probably used a very bad raw processor to generate these these poor quality jpeg files.
    Anyway, I won’t put 6200 Eur to achieve such poor pictures !

  • as if leica would send a guy with the new m away take some shots and totally make sure the pictures (plus the exif information that says leica m) got published before the camera is presented. it was the same with the m9, exif said m8. i don’t know why all this is such a big deal. the pictures doesn’t look very special in my eyes, sorry…

  • For the love of God… give the camera to somebody who is going to create some compelling images that will help to show off the camera & lens!! These are freaken boring. Who gives a crap. Is there nobody in charge of marking!? Leica has potential buyers all over the world just holding their breath for something exciting. I WANT to want this camera… and all Leica needs to do is pour a little “gas on the fire” to make me put my list on a waiting list. Instead they pour water on this glowing flame of anticipation with these totally boring releases.

    I remember when Canon came out with the 5Dmk2 with video and they gave it to Vincent Laforet to create those first videos… and people went nuts with frenzied excitement! This is LAME.

    Look at the photo of the meat market… there is all kinds of noise & pixelation around the first guys face. WTH? Maybe I was stupid to consider getting a Leica digital camera… I will stick with my M6.


  • It must be a joke, these picture look like the ones coming from my 3 years old compact camera (250$) , so huge depth of field and sun colors!

    Besides, poor compositions.

  • Chris,

    What’s LAME is believing that a RAW file converted to JPEG, and likely resized for web-based display, is going to tell you anything useful about an original RAW file recording the output of any brand of sensor. Your personal attack on the photographer, here, and the sensor output and processing, reveals a lot, though.

  • I don’t know why there are so many technical comments…i find this extract a good little story about a man exploring a place and realizing a personal work…I don’t think it was a camera test…??
    thanks all.

  • seeing the video I spotted many more compelling stories/people to capture.
    looking forward to a better series of tests.

  • I have the Leica M9 and love it. Yesterday I almost pre-ordered the Leica M Type 240. Last night I found this site and after seeing the sample photos I’m glad I did not place the order. I didn’t see any improvements over the M9. Shai W hit the nail on the head with suggestions to improve the M9. Lose the CMOS sensor, video, and live view, keep the CCD, the 6400 ISO, and the improved rear display, add GPS and you have a perfect digital camera. Meanwhile, the $7000 for the M Type 240 can be better used elsewhere.

  • I think it is fair to check the prototype and not enhance the photographs with some elaborate set up as the Japanese Camera vendors do and then let people imagine that the camera did the trick. However, what was taken was as candid as it can be and thank Leica to have the courage to present it to the world the way it is. I am sure Leica M is a great camera and there will be people who will be able to show you the best out of it. I am eagerly waiting for it but, as Leica said the M9 is there to stay for some more time. The CCD sensor does wonders to images which I presume the CMOS in M will match up but may not replace.

    It will be a while for me to catch with the M and I think I can well run with the ME for now, which is slightly better than the M9 because of its improved shutter and the color, which I like. However, the used M9’s would be a great buy for now.

  • whats happening! you cant buy any camera without the proper marketing… so wheres the art? Jean Gaumy is in fact a very good photographer more else in the film era, this post show the fact that a camera does not make a good photographer, also show the bad situation where the photography industry is, waiting for some wealthy hobby photographers like you who admire guys like Laforet o Chase Jarvis. This is sad

    leica keep doing good products without the pressure of guys like these one´s (and dont forget the not to rich photographers like us) congrats!

  • Did Gaumy take these pictures with his feet?! Looks like the B-Sides of the average holiday photographer (and I do like street photography!) Not really a teaser for the new M…

  • à 6200€ je préfère faire un don à une ONG pour sauver des vies que d’avoir le sentiment d’appartenir à un mythe disparu …
    un produit de luxe rien de plus … est ce que ça a encore du sens à notre époque ?

  • I find it interesting that, seemingly knowledgeable Photographers, would state their notion of “withdrawing their names from a wait list” for the Leica M because of a few images they have found to be, at best “unimaginative” in viewing.
    You would have to be fairly myopically focused to think a 24 mp sensor isn’t going to produce STUNNING images upon it’s release, in a new Leica.
    What’s really wonderful is the response from M9 owners stating (other than higher ISO noise) that it still is one of the better imaging machines out there.

  • The photos are really good. A different style from JG. Sort of like Alex Webb.The colors less intense though. Adieu Kodachrome.
    Leica allowed the shots to be seen without vast “shop”. Interesting how many commented here and elsewhere about the sensor..
    Leica is perfect for this type of journalistic reportage.Simple camera, one or two lenses.The limited means allows the photographer to be creative, on his own terms.
    Way to go!

  • Please quit picking on the photographers or sites like this will cease to be.

    That said. It is just a 24 meg digital sensor. Even Leica can’t save that. Looks like typical digital. No lens character in the OOF areas. Hard sharpness or not sharp.

    I’m going back to film. No joke.

  • I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed both the photos and videos, fully knowing I’ll never have the cash for an M. But my favorite part was getting to see Jean at work, watching how he interacts with the people he photographs. His friendly humility in dealing with people was an example for me. He’s always been one of my favorite Magnum photographers, and he remains so after seeing these pictures.

    His spectacular body of work speaks for itself. Jean, if you’re reading this: thanks. You’re one of the reasons I became a photographer in the first place.

    And to all those who attacked his work: seriously? When you’ve had as incredible a career as Jean has had AND get asked by Leica to try out some beautiful new equipment of theirs for free, let me know.


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