This is a series of images from a recent assignment commissioned by National Geographic magazine. It takes about 3 weeks round trip, walking at high altitude, to reach this community of nomadic Kyrgyz. In winter, you must walk on a frozen river over difficult terrain. About 1200 people live at the eastern tip of Afghanistan, in an incredibly secluded region. I started to get interested in them after “bumping” into a Kyrgyz caravans during a year spent in neighboring Pakistan, in 1999. I visited the Afghan Pamir mountains 8 or 9 times – each expedition lasted over a month. It’s one of those rare and wonderful story that “fell” on my lap. Afghan Kyrgyz nomads do not often show emotions – moments of joy or sadness are suttle and far apart. I returned to the region year after year, out of commitment and passion to get “under the skin” of this story and avoid falling in generalisations. It’s also an Afghanistan not many people know about. I learned the language – in this case, an essential element to gain intimacy. Eventually, it matured into a body of work. It was a slow process – I would have hated to be rushed through this. Time is the ultimate gift in story telling.
Following a 3-months adventure through Mongolia in the late 90’s, photographer Matthieu Paley’s first job was an expedition for National Geographic Adventure in Bhutan, to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. Twelve years, 4 books and numerous assignments later, his passion to always look “over the next ridge” provided him with countless opportunity to witness our common humanity.
Based in Asia for over 12 years, Matthieu has focused a lot of his energy and passion on documenting the unknown part of the greater Himalayan world, specifically in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Matthieu’s work has been widely published. One of his most recent assignments, commissioned by National Geographic magazine, took him to one of the remotest part of high Asia: the Pamir mountains of Afghanistan.
He has had solo exhibitions in galleries in Hong Kong, Paris and Istanbul. Born in Normandy, France, Matthieu studied photography in New York. He speaks 6 languages and has learned to enjoy the taste of boiled mutton and camel tongue, courtesy of the mountainous nomadic world.