02/02/2012 07:39 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Among The Kazakh Eagle Hunters (PHOTOS)

I'm digging through the archives today selecting images for an upcoming exhibition in Almaty, Kazakhstan. A couple of years ago I remember sitting on a bus in my boxer shorts, sweating, being watched by an entire bus full of Mongolians making the long trip from the Bayan Olgii region of Western Mongolia back to Ulan Bataar, the capital. It was -20 degrees outside and I was sitting on a radiator with a sheep on my lap. The journey took almost a week non-stop.


The view from Kwanduk's house, Altai Mountains, Mongolia.

I had been in Bayan Olgii, deep in the Altai Mountains to shoot a feature on Kazakh Eagle Hunters. These diaspora Kazakhs had come over the border at the time that the Soviet Empire had pushed down into Kazakhstan. As Kazakh culture gradually dwindled in Soviet Kazakhstan, these people kept hold of all their traditional cultures. Kwanduk, whose family the story focused on, owned two magnificent golden eagles and would go out early in the morning hunting rabbits, foxes, wolves and marmots. The fur is used to make the infamous Kazakh hats, whilst the meat is fed to the eagles.

In the evening the family would sit around and play dombra, cooking mutton and melting ice water. Soon after the trip I made a short multimedia piece:

Looking through this old hard drive I wonder why I don't have more images but I remember now that I only took one 4gb memory card with me, which probably would have been enough for about 120 frames. Amazing how much things have changed in just two years. I wonder if that bus journey still takes as long....

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