Taskurgan is an unforgiving place. Located at 10,140 feet in the Pamir mountain range on the borders of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, close to Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan, this small autonomous Kashgar Prefecture county in Xinjiang, China is cold, the winters are long, and food is hard to come by.
But out of such a place emerged a fascinating culture. The ethnic Tajiks and their simple, tribal way of life are not well known to the outside world, however, something that Chinese photographer XinZhao Li sought to change.
In order to do justice to a community that has lived in relative obscurity, it’s so important to become fully acquainted with their customs. Nothing is more disrespectful than an artist or photographer who does “drive-by” shooting without bothering to get to the know the people they are photographing.
Clearly this was not how Li approached her subject.
In addition to being beautifully-composed images with spectacular detail, they are sensitive and warm, and portray a kind of vitality that is not easy to capture on digital film.
Located on the historic Silk Road, Tashkurgan is now a market town. People travel there to purchase sheep and wool and woolen products, including carpets, and orchards circle the county’s circumference.
The Tajiks in this region speak Sarikoli and have very little access to the luxuries we take for granted: medical facilities are sparse, and electricity and communication networks are erratic.
Li’s images unveil the extraordinary resilience of the people who continue to eke out a life in this high desert environment. They are pictured with tools, a small beat up vehicle, donkeys, pets and in intimate settings rarely afforded to outsiders.
Called Through The Unknown Tashkurgan, this remarkable photographic series was captured with a Hasselblad large-format digital camera and Profoto lighting.
Read what the artist says about her experience living among the Tajiks:
In Tashkurgan, due to the cold weather, lack of nutrients and altitude sickness, I was ill half the time and was then unable to undertake the photographic mission.I have witnessed childbirth, tribal marriages, unforeseen sickness, snow storm, avalanche, gazing into the stars whilst bathing in mysterious hot-springs, discovered Saussurea – a rare and precious Chinese herb, saving the lives of endangered animals, being placed under gun points as a spy suspect, car accidents, punctured tires, spending chilly nights alone in road side warehouses in the midst of getting lost driving at the country’s border – a woman’s nightmare scenario for being raped, torn ligaments of my swollen ankles, and putting myself relentlessly into all kinds of joyful and stressful situations.
Visit XinZhao Li’s profile on See Me for more beautiful images of the Tajiks of Taskurgan.
Via Feature Shoot