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fine art prints by National Geographic photographer Matthieu Paley

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Ajar


900

Ajar’s family are all blue-eyed. I was always amazed to feel a familiarity in people’s faces amongst Wakhi people, who live in the Pamir mountains, right next to the border with China. I find it fascinating to consider the implications on human migration. Think of our history, of all the ancient paths that have been taken to reach every corner of the earth, all the drama and excitement that must have taken place (and still is taking place!).

Bakh Shoh

Instagram
800

We met the day before, he was cutting barley with his sisters and uncles. I returned early morning, walking near his home, wanting in… Bakh Shoh again! His resting face, waiting for tea. But then he could crack up and laugh, or do quick dance moves, listening to his little orange radio. Then back to resting face. Can you imagine? It’s a photographer’s luxury to pick a moment, yet know there is more to it. In fact there is always more to it.

Burundo


650

Women often wear several watches.

“I was given a watch for my wedding – it broke. Then my mother in law gave me a new one, so now I have two on my wrist”, says Rosman’s wife.

Gul

Instagram
600

Her mother was busy doing p’tok, a thick bread cooked right inside the fire. Gul knew the herd was back, she stepped out and found the goats for milking. Tea will follow. Warm summer settlement, Waramdeh Valley.

Juma Boi I


900

Juma Boi is grabbing a fish that he hit by throwing stones in the water. Even though the Pamir has a lot of fish in summer, Kyrgyz nomads are not especially talented with catching them using a line and a hook, seeing it as a pointless exercise – they are herders in their core.

Kachura

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900

Mareile stands on an immersed boulder at the Kachura lake, heart of the Karakoram mountains. We lived in this village for a few months, doing volunteer teaching. Nearest phone was a 5-hour drive, all before the internet. We just soaked it in.

Kher Metek

Instagram
1100

Entrance to the Little Pamir. Rolling hills, leftover from an ancient glacial outflow, the snow wrapping around it. Here is chocolate cream and the last thing that I can think of is ice-cream!

Kitshiq Aq Jyrga


700

I was riding a horse, trying not to get my teeth knocked out. Whip in mouth, a Kyrgyz man steers his horse in a game of buzkashi, a competition akin to polo—except a headless goat carcass takes the place of the ball. Buzkashi is the Afghan national sport. The Kyrgyz call it ulak tartysh, or “kid grabbing.”

Lut

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900

According to NASA’s satellite data, the Dasht-e Lut desert is the hottest spot on Earth. The beauty of this desert is a major reason the UNESCO inscribed the Lut Desert on its World Heritage List. Iran.

Moqur

Instagram
600

Snow in August. We slept in our tent, right next to this Kyrgyz camp. She came to invite us for “chai” and stood there a second, waiting for us to get ready, gazing at her home, all she ever knew.

Pegish I


750

Pegich kept circling the flames, busy as she was, mending the fire, preparing diner. The wife of Er Ali Boi, she is named after the Wakhi village she was born in, a week walk down the valley. Most Afghan Kyrgyz woman have their blouses decorated with shiny pretty things – trinkets gathered over the years, as well as with old family heirlooms.

Rakaposhi II


900

Rakaposhi, also known as Dumani (“Mother of Mist”) in North Pakistan, is the 27th highest mountain in the world (7788 m – 25.551 ft). Measured from base to summit, it has an uninterrupted ~6000 meters vertical rise which, in a way, makes it the tallest free standing mountain in the world. It was first climbed by a British-Pakistani team in 1958 – and not many times after that. I remember how stunned I was the first time I saw this giant popping out of the landscape – I didn’t know what mountains were before I saw that.

Song Köl I

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900

The silky rolling hills around Song Köl, viewed as we approached it from the North. Shot with my medium format camera. We camped on the edge of it. I trekked with my friend Gilemon. He got sunburned, had altitude sickness and then his shoes started to hurt his feet! It was so bad that he ended the trek wearing his flip-flops.

Tegirmensuu


800

Snow blowing into China. View from Manara camp towards Tegirmensuu valley. Beyond the mountains in the distance is China. The Bam-e-Dunya, the  ‘Roof of the World’ was also dubbed the ‘Third Pole’ by early explorers like Francis Younghusband.

Tella Bu II

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800

The woman facing us is Tella Bu. This was 2012 and I had first met her in 2005, in her father’s yurt, the chief of the Afghan Kyrgyz community. She wore a red veil then, a sign that she was not married. A few months after her wedding, her red veil was replaced by this white one.

 

Zorabod


900

The first time crossing the hanging bridge near Passu in Pakistan’s Karakorum mountains. A stressful experience looking at the water rushing below. And then this grandmother just trotted through, like a breeze. Humbled.