New East Digital Archive

Out of steppe: a photographic odyssey into the heart of Central Asia

After reading Jamila by Kyrgyz poet Chinghiz Aitmatov, French documentary photographer Claudine Doury developed an interest in the history of the peoples of the steppe, namely Kazakhs, Karakalpaks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Uighurs. From 2002 to 2005 Doury travelled across this region, taking photographs from the Aral Sea to the banks of Issyk Koul to Xinjiang. Loulan Beauty captures the harshness of the landscape and combines it with a portrait of youth and in particular of young women. The title evokes the Sleeping Beauty of Loulan, one of the 200 mummies found on the Silk Road, in the Chinese desert of Xinjiang. Incredibly well preserved, with her braids and high cheekbones, she embodies eternal youth and beauty. β€œIt is the history of a slow disappearance, in sands and in time, the end of a world, a journey in post-Soviet Central Asia and Chinese Xinjiang,” says Doury of her book. Through her images Doury tells a story of fishermen without sea, of children dancing to make their parents return from far away, and men that listen to sands singing.

23 October 2014