by Asher Svidensky
During my last voyage to Mongolia, I flew over to Ulgii (or ölgii), the capital of the far west. I went there in order to document the Kazakh eagle hunters’ lives in west Mongolia. These eagle hunters, who preserve an old tradition that’s passed from generation to generation, tame eagles and use them for hunting smaller animals, such as foxes and marmots. The eagle hunter’s families live on this side of Mongolia after having migrated between Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia until the fall of communism and closing of all borders. The tradition’s preservation was what drew me to them. They preserve it without any touristic nature, unlike in Kazakhstan. These Kazakh eagle hunters, who live in Mongolia today, are the last ones on earth who still deserve the title “Eagle Hunter”. It is not merely a title to them, but a way of life.
At first, I was doing everything according to my plan. I hired a chauffeur and a local translator who would guide me and take me to the eagle hunter’s families in the mountains. I made sure I would spend at least a day with every family for the sake of personally getting to know them. I had played with the children and I had taken photos that document their way of life’s atmosphere. Afterwards, I had gone to the mountains with the family’s father, and documented him over the course of a hunt. I also photographed him during sunset, on horseback, proudly holding on to his golden eagle.
On the way back from the mountains, however, it felt like something was missing. I felt like all the photos I’d taken over the last few days were a mere reflection of previous photos and stories, distinguished only by slight light and place differences. It wasn’t enough for me. I knew I had to find another way and tell a new story that was not yet told in the snowy Mongolian mountains. (Read more)