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Winter in the Afghan Pamirs by Beth Wald Wins Banff

Photo essay Winter in the Afghan Pamirs by Beth Wald took top prize at the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.

The Afghan Pamir is a high, remote and road-less region at the end of the Wakhan Corridor, where the Afghan Kyrgyz follow a nomadic life, intimately dependent on herds of sheep, yaks and camels for food, transport, fuel and shelter and as trade for other essentials.

In winter, it is a harsh, windswept and mostly monochrome world, brightened by the bright red worn by the women and girls.

A Bactrian camel stoically braves a snowstorm at a Kyrgyz winter camp at about 14,000 feet in the Little Pamirs, Wakhan Corridor, northeastern Afghanistan. These woolly, double-humped camels used by the Krygyz are domestic relatives of the wild and critically endangered Bactrian camels of southern China and northern Mongolia. The humps store fat that the camels can use for sustenance and water in lean times – but when they are depleted, as with this camel, they flop over like empty sacks. Camels are important as beasts of burden for the nomadic Krygyz-they use them for moving their yurts from camp to camp- and are also symbols of wealth and status. Not long ago, Kyrgyz men took camel caravans in winter months down frozen rivers to the villages in the valleys, where they would trade yak butter, sheep and goats for wheat and other supplies with the Wakhi, the indigenous people of the Wakhan. I took this photo exactly ten years ago today, during a month-long journey on foot through the roadless, frozen mountain world of the Afghan Pamirs, part of a several year project to document the peoples of the Wakhan-the Wakhi and Kyrgyz, their ways of life, their relationship to each other, to their environment and to the wildlife of the Pamirs. Despite the hardship, it was one of the most amazing trips of my life, and I had the incredible privilege to spend time with incredible and hardy Kyrgyz and Wakhi families….but I didn’t ride a camel! Next time! #Afghanistan #wakhancorridor #Afghanpamirs #Pamirs #Kyrgyz #Kirghiz #camel bactriancamel #mountainculture #Badakshan #roofoftheworld #bamidunya #mountainjourney #onassignment #centralasia #pastoralist #winterlandscape #frozen #nikon @thephotosociety @ilcp_photographers @natgeocreative

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Beth Wald is a documentary photographer who creates compelling visual narratives that explore the rich diversity and beauty of natural environments and cultures under threat around the world and tells stories about struggles to save ecosystems, species, ancient knowledge and ways of being, and about our often conflicted relationship with the natural world.

She thrives far off the grid, immersed in a place and a culture. She accepted her award before the Western Canada premiere of Free Solo.

Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian, The New York Times, Outside and many others and she has partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Panthera, Tompkins Conservation, and many organizations.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Rowell Award and POY.

I am posting a couple more images from a series of photos from the Afghan Pamirs; in this photo, Kyrgyz girls in traditional red robes brave frigid temperatures and icy winds as they fill plastic jugs with water at stream near their family’s winter camp and load them on donkeys to return the half-mile to their family’s camp, about 14,000 feet in the Little Pamir, Wakhan Corridor, northeast Afghanistan. It is a cold but necessary daily outing, done mostly by girls. A small population of Kyrgyz live a nomadic life on the high plateau of the Afghan Pamirs, moving seasonally with their herds of yaks, goats, sheep, camels and horses. It is a hard life, especially in winter, when temperatures can dip to -40 Fahrenheit and the wind blows almost constantly. Despite many problems that they face – poverty, opium addiction and lack of education – the Krygyz are proud of their culture, their ability to survive and their freedom on the “Bam-i-Dunya” or Roof of the World. I am so grateful to the Kyrgyz and Wakhi families who welcomed me into their homes during the arduous journey in the Pamirs. I am also honored that this series was chosen as the winner of the 2018 Banff Mountain Photo Essay Competition, part of the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, run by the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. You can see the rest of the photos essay at this link: https://www.banffcentre.ca/2018-banff-mountain-photo-essay-competition-winner If you can, check out the Banff Centre and their programs and events – they are huge and constant support of artists and story-tellers working in mountain regions and other landscapes around the world – photographers, writers, filmmakers, poets, painters, musicians. The Banff Centre awarded me a grant or two, many years ago, when I was just starting to turn my camera from adventure sports to culture and environment, and their belief in my work and direction helped me believe in myself and to continue on my creative journey. #grateful #Afghanistan #wakhancorridor #Afghanpamirs #Pamirs #mountainculture #Badakshan #centralasia #kyrgyz #everydayafghanistan @banffcentre @thephotosociety @ilcp_photographers @natgeocreative

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