in the alley
For these children their alley will soon become a distant memory…
We often go back to the places where we grew up and most of us find ourselves surprised at how much smaller they look, how much our imagination added to them over the years, how developed they look or how abandoned. For the children of Kashgar, they will come back to find nothing of the old. The city is under demolition and their homes will soon be gone with no trace of them ever having existed. I feel so lucky to have been one of the photographers who captured a slice of this beautiful old culture before it gets forced to metamorphose completely into something else, somewhere else.
photo taken: children playing in an old Kashgar city alley~ Xinjiang
What is it that really looks out of the eyes of children? Do we know what we are dismissing when tell a child to just run along as they ask us some difficult questions? What is asking those questions? Aren’t children carrying the beacon of the future? If we dismiss them, aren’t we gambling with the future? They see how big we are, how seemingly more knowledgable we appear, how much more experience we have and they assume that we have the answers. Then we go on to avoid the answers, give wrong ones or simply send them away rejected and with that breaking that line of trust they were willing to extend to us. Wouldn’t it be much better to admit that we don’t know either and to work it out together with the young humans? I wonder…
photo taken: little girl in the mountain village of Tashkurgan~ Xinjiang
On the old silk road
Starting around 200 BC, a network of trade routs was created linking China, India, other parts of Asia, Afro Asia and Europe. Its name comes from the German (Seidenstrasse), the silk road saw the trade of silk, tea, spices, glassware, jewelry, gold, silver, perfumes, textiles, precious stones as well as the dreaded bubonic plague.
It felt very moving to drive along a part of this historic road, and to stand and imagine the thousand upon thousands of travelers who spent hundreds of days and nights in their adventures on that very same ground. Our planet’s history is so rich with tales of what has been, and the stories are there to be discovered, marveled at and pondered at. It is after all our story and its events the stepping stones that led us to where we all stand today.
amber eyes in a village called Opal
One hour from Kashgar, along the old silk road and just before the start of the Karakoram highway, lies a small village called “Opal”. In the middle of the hustle of the village market, the busy bread stalls, the people milling around and moving goods from place to place, I saw this pretty woman with the amber eyes. She stood there in the sunlight near a row of trees, alone, maybe waiting for someone. I approached, we did not speak, I looked at her, she looked back, I flet a silent agreement from her to photograph her, so I did. After clicking several frames I had the strangest feeling that with some people, as you photograph them, they are photographing you back. Her eyes were steady and piercing, blinking occasionally, just like a camera would. Weren’t cameras fashioned after human eyes in the first place?
The little Uyghur lady~Kashgar
More than two thirds of the old city of Kashgar has been demolished and the rest doomed to follow shortly…
I met this girl in one of the narrow alleys of what is left of the old city as she stood framed by her old family door. Old decorated wooden doors are considered a family treasure among the inhabitants of Kashgar and the carry with them a richness of symbology and lore. A half open door for example is an indication that the master of the house is at home and male visitors may call in. I head while in Kashgar that when the homes are getting demolished, the families, unhinge their doors and take them with them to their assigned new homes, because these doors are holders of their family traditions that they are so afraid of losing.
The Uyghur gentleman~ Kashgar
In some parts of the world and with the older generations, being photographed is taken quite seriously. The pose and expression are premeditated in a way that wants to show the world that they are proud of who they are, and I just love that. I remember finding old portraits of my grandmother in shoeboxes where she looked so incredibly elegant, so refined, dressed in the most elegant of clothing and in my mind this is how she lives. I only met her as a very small child and I have no other recollection of her as she lived across the oceans, so these images embody the essence of how she projected herself to the world.
I asked this lovely man to photograph him outside the old teahouse in Kashgar and he agreed but asked me to wait. He positioned the chair where he wanted it, smoothed his coat and placed his folded hands across his knees and only then he gave me the signal to go ahead.
the beautiful girl with the unibrow
A dew drop on a fresh flower petal at dawn radiates a beauty beyond anything we humans can create…
The concept of beauty is a funny one. What is considered beautiful in one culture can be completely unattractive in another. In China where we live, big noses are considered attractive, while tan skin is not, and ladies walk around with umbrellas during the sunny days to protect their fairness. In the west, we work very hard on shaping our eyebrows to achieve a minimal look, whereas in Asia, the unibrow is a sought after symbol of beauty.
I find beauty in the varying concept of beauty. I love traveling the world and learning its different ways. I love the fact that we humans are able to express ourselves in so many varied ways and to respond to land radiations and let them permeate our ways, from food, dress, thought, religion, fashion, even down to our perceptions of beauty.
photo taken: Uyghur girl in the market in Kashgar
the eyes of the alley
Houses were built so that we may hide behind their windows and doors…
The old city of Kashgar is a maze of old narrow alleys, meandering around and around, some leading to the city center, others ending with stone walls that bar your entry. I was told that the cobble stones in the alley are shaped in code, letting you know what kind of alley it is. Square stones lead you to a dead end, while hexagonal ones will merge into another alley. The old city is filled with old codes, with mystery, with agreed to signs that only the inhabitants know of. And when you walk down those alleys, there is no knowing what eyes are watching you from behind the old Kashgar doors.
the little questioning eyes
In the streets of old Kashgar I met so many children, playful, joyful, running here and there, but not this little boy. I had some candy in my pocket that I offered him and he just stood there looking at me then down at his shoes, then at me again until he summoned the courage to extend his had for the sweet candy only to drop his eyes back again to his feet. He looked so innocent and fragile with his borrowed woman’s shoe that I almost reached out to hug him… but I did not. He walked slowly away down the alley to found the door to his house and disappear into it.
a little boy, a sun flare and a lollypop
One of the wildest things to witness in Kashgar is the livestock market. Animals are brought in early in the morning by local salesmen on trucks, horseback carriages, and other vehicles and are lined up together for merchants from all over China to bargain for and buy. The condition of the animals and the handling of them can leave you in a state of shock, but that is how things have always been done at this market. I walked there with my camera in the middle of clouds of dust and symphonies of sheep, goats, cows, horses, donkeys, camels and other livestock and as always, I was mostly caught by the people.
This little boy was being trained into the trade as with other young boys by his father, and he sat in the middle of the market, money in one hand, lollypop in the other while the sales were being negotiated.