Monday, December 5, 2011

Hectic life and publications

I was told couple of years ago that a photographer should 1/do editorial work 2/gallery work and 3/books. Not really realizing it, I followed this advice - after almost 10 years living of being almost strictly an editorial photographer, the timing was right. Now life is slightly more hectic but equally as stimulating.

The last month has been a mad scramble between 1/ preparing for a long job in Afghanistan next month 2/ preparing and editing 2 solo exhibitions that will happen here in Istanbul right after my expedition to Afghanistan and 3/ giving structure to a book that will come out next summer.  Oh, and I also been working on a completely new website over the last 6 months. I am trying to fill it with nicely captioned / key worded images. This has been difficult -  it represent a huge amount of work - I could lock myself for a year now and only do that. It's been difficult enough that I have been on a serious hunt to finding an assistant the last 2 weeks. No luck so far...

Here a couple of publications that came out this month, in December 2011.

My story on Nauru is out in the german edition of Geo. Below is the opening spread, of the Civic center. A long story in the making on the world's smallest republic, that was an exhibition in France last year - I shot the story exactly 1 year ago. This is the opening spread:

In the french edition of Geo, I have a story on Nomadic America - shot last summer as part of my book "Dans les Roues de Kerouac - Portraits d'une Amérique Nomade" Editions de la Martinière- and in anticipation of the soon to be release screen adaptation of "On the Road" by Kerouac - produced by Coppola and shot by Walter Salles. Here 2 chosen spreads from this story:

Also in Tatler, I am the featured photographer of their 10 pages gallery section. Here is one of them...

Finally, I have a spread in the current edition of Conde Nast Traveler in the US. The "Where are you" section. And don't hassle me to ask me where it is... but you can always try to bribe me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crazy summer of road tripping!

Yes, it has been 4 months since I didn't sit down on my blog! Shame, shame, shame!!

Here is a quick recap on an intense summer: early June our second son Timoté was born at the minute the sun rose over Istanbul, our new home. It's apparently called an heliacal birth.
A couple of weeks of family bonding and I was off on a long awaited 4 weeks trip across the US, east to West - "The road to Kerouac; Portaits of a Nomadic America" (published by La Martinière ). The book (208 pages) landed on my editor's lap a few days ago, and should be available in stores soon in France. Here are some snap shots of the book - I will do a proper Blog entry when it is officially available:

An article on this very topic will come out in Géo (French edition) in December 2011.

After this cross-country non-stop adventure, I spent a few days in Washington (meeting with National Geographic magazine), and then 5 days in New York. That didn't help slow down anything, but it was great to see old friends and to just re-immersed myself in this brilliant city. I lived there almost 4 years in the late 90's. 10 years I hadn't been there. The smells, feels and looks haven't changed much expect for this Williamsburg hipster frame-less glasses phenomenon...

I flew back to Europe to re-unite to family and hit the ground driving from Rouen, France, in Normandy, to Berlin - I was close to 9000 Km already from mid-June, my bum was sore. Berlin was really a great feel. About 10 different languages heard in the street every 5 minutes, and just a general good humored feel. To me, the most cosmopolitan city of Europe. Maybe one day I live there.

From Berlin, I drove to Munich in time to catch a plane to Tajikistan - via Istanbul ironically - back to the Tajik Pamir for a story on "seed hunting". Have a look at this guy. We drove much again, I became experimental with my shooting from the window, mainly to kill time.

Back in Munich - I drove to South of France to attend Perpignan's Visa pour l'Image. 3 days was just the perfect amount of mingling, sharing work and yes, partying.
Back in Istanbul, just in time to enjoy the end of summer. The city seduces me and there are interesting stories around. After a trip to Hatay, on the Syrian border, I came back to Istanbul to shoot a story on the geopolitical importance of.... TV dramas in Turkey and the middle east. Great stuff that I will keep on working on for a while I hope.

I am now in Hong Kong for 3 weeks - to attend to my solo exhibition on Mongolia. Here is the link to the gallery, and below the invitation... Opening is tomorrow Tuesday 25th October 2011 at 6pm:
Picture This gallery
Suite 1308, 13th Floor
9 Queen's Road, Central
Hong Kong

If you are in the area, come and catch me!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book project across the USA: On the road to Kerouac - Sur la Route de Kerouac - Coppola et Walter Salles

 I have been absent of that blog for a bit – one main reason being is I just became dad for the 2nd time and so time sort of stopped around the birth of Timoté, who was born at the exact time the sun rose over Istanbul, on June 4th. There are no words…

Currently in New York, I am about to embark on what should be a great 4 weeks journey across the US. I studied photography in NY in the late nineties, was briefly back in 2001, but not since then. It’s an incredible thrill to be back here in the US– and especially to come and photograph this country, East to West.

What’s the story? Well… the story is the road, the story is itinerant America, the quest for home or the feeling of it, the enlightened, the modern nomadic America – for ideology or by necessity.
This is a book project, commissioned by famed French publisher La Martinière, as well as a 52mn documentary produced by Gédéon in Paris. Preparations have been going on for several months – we were lucky to have a great fixer in New York who helped us organize this journey. It has been quite a puzzle to put together.

What’s the reason for this project? Well, the famous book from Jack Kerouac “On the Road” has been adapted to the screen and will come out as a movie next December, produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Walter Salles.
Writer, director and traveler Christophe Cousin and I proposed the idea to La Martinière of revisiting the “On the road” ideology across the US and make a book out of it – to be published at the time the movie comes out. It’s good to know we both have been fascinated by Kerouac’s writings.
What is the legacy of the Beat movement in nowadays America? We will spend time with the people and in the places that so inspired Kerouac and the other Beat authors. Cameraman Fitz Jego will come along as well, for a documentary that will be aired on Canal + in December.

Of course the work still need to be done and I hope to find time to write a bit about it on my blog now and then – probably from the motel room or the diner that will be my home and kitchen for the next month.
Hobos, wagon cowboys, Christian wandering preachers, Indian shepherds, rainbow gatherers etc. There is a nice interesting bunch waiting out for us.

On a personal note, this project falls right at the time when I have been thinking a lot about “what is home” – especially with my recent move from Hong Kong to Istanbul, which has shuffle my life around quite a bit. Staying “nomadic” with a young family is a challenge that puts you to the test. Should I even consider buy a home? And if so, where? Where is my home? Ubi bene Patria as they say: “Home is where you feel happy”…

The road keep going - Hitchiking along the Turkey-Iran border, winter 2000.
La route continue – tentative d'auto-stop le long de la frontière Irano-Turque, hiver 2000.

J’ai été absent de ce blog depuis un petit moment – la raison principale est l’arrivée  de mon 2eme fils – le temps c’est arrêté autour de la naissance de Timoté, né à la minute ou le soleil se levait sur Istanbul le 4 Juin. C’est incroyable…

Je suis en ce moment à New York, au seuil d’un voyage de 4 semaines à travers les USA. J’ai fait mes études de photo à New York à la fin des années 90, suis revenu brièvement en 2001, mais pas depuis. C’est vraiment stimulant de revenir aux US – surtout dans le but de photographier ce pays, d’Est en Ouest.

Sur quelle histoire vais-je travailler ? ET bien… sur l’histoire de la route, de l’Amérique itinérante, la recherche de sa patrie, ce sentiment d’appartenance à un lieu, les illuminés, l’Amérique moderne nomade – par idéologie ou nécessité.
C’est un projet de livre commissionné par les éditions de la Martinière, enplus d’un documentaire de 52mn produit par Gédéon à Paris. Cela fait plusieurs mois que nous préparons le voyage – nous avons sur place à New York une fixeuse qui nous aide beaucoup. Notre périple est un vrai casse-tête à organiser.

Pourquoi ce projet ? Et bien, le fameux livre « Sur la Route » de Jack Kerouac a été adapté au grand écran et sortira en Décembre prochain, produit par Francis Ford Coppola et dirigé par Walter Salles.
L’écrivain voyageur et réalisateur Christophe Cousin et moi-même proposons l’idée à La Martinière de revisiter l’idéologie de « Sur la Route » à travers les Etats-Unis et en fiare un livre – qui sortira au moment de la sortie du film en salle.  Il est bon à savoir que ce livre nous a tous deux beaucoup marqué.
Quel est l’héritage de la génération Beat dans les Etats-Unis d’aujourd’hui ? Nous allons nous attarder chez les gens et les lieux qui ont tant inspiré Kerouac. Et d’autres auteurs Beat. Le Cameraman Fitz Jego se joint à nous pour filmer un documentaire qui sera diffusé sur Canal + en Décembre.

Il ne reste plus qu’a avaler des kilomètres. Je compte écrire pendant notre périple, probablement du motel ou du diner qui seront ma maison et ma cuisine pour les 4 semaines à venir.
Les hobos, cowboys wagons, itinérant prêcheur Chrétiens, bergers Indiens,  Famille de l’Arc en ciel etc. Il y a du drôle monde qui nous attend.

D’un point de vue personnel, ce projet arrive à un moment dans ma vie ou cette question de l’appartenance à un lieu me travaille beaucoup – surtout après ce déménagement récent de Hong Kong à Istanbul qui a un peu chamboulé ma vie. Garder un mode de vie « nomadique »  avec une jeune famille est un vrai challenge. Dois-je penser a l’achat du maison ? Mais ou ? Ou est cette patrie ? Ubi ben Patria comme on dit : « La maison c’est là ou tu es heureux »…

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nauru, the world's smallest country, once world's richest country, now with world's highest diabetes rate.

I was on French radio recently. An interview by Régis Picart, the chief editor of France Info, about my assignment in Nauru that was recently exhibited. I like how Regis summarized the situation in his write-up titled "The Eldorado of diabetes". Nauru, once the world's richest country, has now the world's highest diabetes rate.

Hear it and see it by clicking here.

Je suis passé à la radio récemment. Un interview de Régis Picard, rédacteur en chef de France Info, à propos de mon reportage à Nauru, exposé au festival Photo de Mer. J'aime la manière dont Régis a résumé la situation dans son article intitulé "L'eldorado des diabétiques". Nauru, un temps le pays le plus riche au monde, a maintenant le taux de diabète le plus élevé au monde.


We passed with a car and I saw that man below in a cemetery in the distance. I walked to him and he welcomed me with a smile. I pushed away a mechanism that was telling me I should look sad for him. He was in fact a happy man, smiling all the way telling me a bit of his and his wife's love history. I love this kind of moments, be it tainted with death or not.

Nous sommes passés en voiture et j'ai vu cet homme au loin dans un cimetière. J'ai marché vers lui et il m'a sourit. J'ai repoussé un de ces mécanismes qui me disait que je devais prendre l'air triste. En fait, c'était un homme souriant, qui n'arrêta pas de sourire, tout en me rancontant sa vie amoureuse, de sa femme et lui. J'adore ce genre de moments, qu'il soit teind de mort ou pas.

Christmas is getting close. Jeffrey Garo uses the opportunity to repaint the tomb of his wife Nebaida, who passed away in 2004. “You know, here we call it the silence killer. Everyday people die on the island. No need to ask, it’s always diabetes…” Arrived from the islands of Tuvalu during the wave of immigration in the 60’s, Jeffrey fell in love and never left the island.

Noël approche. Jeffrey Garo en profite pour repeindre la tombe de sa femme Nebaida, qui est décédée en 2004. "Vous savez, ici on l'appele le tueur silencieux. Tout les jours des gens meurent. Y a pas besoin de demander: c'est toujours le diabète...". Arrivé des îles Tuvalu pendant la vague d'immigration dans les années 60, Jeffrey est tombé amoureux et n'est jamais reparti...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Matthieu Paley sur France 2 - I was on TV...

I am hard at work trying to find a solution for a new website - as most of us now know, Flash = Satan - so I need to revert to html, only for referencing purposes, so that my entire site can be searchable (it's far from being the case now), so that the site shows up in iphone/ipad etc... To host it, I have been considering Photoshelter, PhotoDeck, Neon Sky, Livebooks etc. It's getting my head in - but it's important I move back to html.

A few days ago, I was on french television (France 2) for an interview on my ongoing exhibition on Nauru and on the festival in general. I am not good at show biz, but Here it is. It gives an insight of the outdoor exhibition space, which was really well done I thought. It's a few minutes.

Je suis passé à la télé, sur France 2 il y a quelques jours - à propos de mon exposition sur Nauru et sur le festival en général. Vous pouvez visionné ça ici.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Supernatural creatures of the mountains - les créatures surnaturelles des montagnes

They are named Jinn and they often come out at night. They like remote mountain valleys too. My first "encounter" with them was in Kachura village, in Pakistan's Karakoram mountains, during a full moon night.

Here is a two-part edited short story about Jinn's (and epilepsy...) in Afghanistan's Wakhan region by my friend and Afghan Kyrgyz expert © Ted Callahan:

"One night, as I’m writing up the day’s fieldnotes, Orunbai, a son of the Khan, comes to my tent.

“Sorry to bother you, Temir-aka, but my wife is sick. It might be a jinn, but we’re not sure.”

I’ve been wondering about traditional healing practices among the Afghan Kyrgyz, since I have yet to see any evidence of it, and eagerly follow Orunbai to his house. Inside, I find Kyrgol, his wife, keeled over, complaining of severe abdominal pain and moaning as she grasps her stomach.

...They decide that... they will try to drive the jinn out themselves. First, one of the women brings over a loaf of round, flat bread with two candles lit in the middle of it. This is passed in front of the sick woman three times, while chants are muttered. Then, this same woman brings over some embers from the fire and, putting them in front of Kyrgol, fans the smoke towards her. Finally, one of the men takes a rock which has been sitting atop the stove, wrapped it in a red cloth, and moves it back in forth in front of Kyrgol’s stomach, though without actually touching her.

Curious, I feign ignorance and ask why they are doing this. I am simply told, “For the jinn.”

When my turn comes, I give her some painkillers and antacids. The next day, Kyrgol is fine. Opinion is split over whether it really was a jinn or just, as I suggest, indigestion. We agree to let the question of what the problem might have been rest."

"One Wakhi shepherd at the Khan’s camp, Mirza, suffers from epilepsy, a common condition in the Wakhan owing to close intermarriage. Often, around dinnertime, he would rise, walk over to a corner, lie down, and suffer an epileptic seizure. I assumed that everyone knew he had epilepsy and that he simply endured his condition because no medicine was available.

One day, I asked Mirza whether he had sought treatment for his condition.

“Yes, I have visited several bakshy ( - ed: in Kyrgyz community, Bakshy are male shaman with healing powers) in the Wakhan but they have not been able to help me.” he answered.

Surprised, I asked, “Wait, what do you think your problem is?”

“I have a jinn” he replied, as if it were obvious. "

Text ©Ted Callahan

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prisoners of the Himalayas - an ongoing film Project

Last January/February, I went back to the Afghanistan's Pamir mountains to have my first "real" experience shooting film. It's a long story that brought us there, but it was due to the motivation of Louis Meunier (Director of the project). Louis has a long experience in Afghanistan, and he was not the first director to approach me on doing a film on the Afghan Kyrgyz - but his experience, honesty and motivation made it happen. We shared our knowledge of the area and we eventually got last-minute funding from the Danish Embassy in Afghanistan to shoot this film. Thanks so much dear Danes! This last winter was the first session of a 2 (or 3) session-shooting in the Afghan Pamir.

During an interview break, a Kyrgyz looks through my camera.

As far as filming, I was going to be paired up with another cameraman. I was fearing a show-off dude, but instead I was lucky enough to be teamed up with a kind, patient and extremely talented man: Laurent Fleutot (Director of Photography on "The Winged Migration" and "Oceans", among others).
Of course, this expedition would not have been possible without the help of our Wakhis and Afghan friends who supported us all along - it was my second winter trip up there with now famous Malang Dario, our production assistant. He was the first afghan to climb Mt Noshaq in 2009, Afghanistan's highest mountain. See Louis's other project about this here: 24.000 feet above the War.

We walked and walked and slept in dung smoked filled shepherd houses by -30C and this is what came out: Ladies and gentlemen (drum roll), I present to you "Prisoners of the Himalayas":

You can learn more about the project on our film website :

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Afghan Pamir Re-visited

These past January and February I was in Afghanistan for my second winter expedition (the last one was in 2008, on an assignment for Geo magazine with Ted Callahan ).
This year, it took 16 yaks and 23 days to trek up and down the Afghan Pamir mountains  - and reach the end of the Wakhan Corridor and the China border. Abdul Rashid Khan (whom I first met in 2005), the last leader of the Afghan Kyrgyz, passed away last December 2009, quietly in his yurt. We visited a community adrift, struggling in selecting a new Khan.

Below is a sneak preview, the full story is up on my website, under Stories > The Last Khan  - presentation text will be up there soon....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three cups of Deceit - goes live with a story from Jon Krakauer

I was lucky enough to exchange e-mails with writer Jon Krakauer yesterday.
Then today his story (an ebook to be exact) we were discussing went live on Byliner website: "Three cups of deceit - How humanitarian Greg Mortenson lost his way". My image of a Central Asia Institute (Greg's foundation) school in Afghanistan is on the cover. You can download it for free for the next 3 days on the Byliner website - so read it if you get a chance and make up your own opinion.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Greg Mortenson on 60 Minutes - CBS news

I have been following Greg's Mortenson work with the Central Asia Institute (CAI) since my year-long stay in Skardu, Pakistan,  back in 1999. I started getting e-mails from various people over the last few days, requesting images from CAI schools in Afghanistan. I didn't know why until a friend sent me that link (aired tonight). Over the years, I have heard few negative stories from various people about Mr Mortenson - it's always hard to know if they are simply jealous of his success or plainly telling the truth. I hope Greg gets on CBS's 60 minutes (or any TV interview program for that matter), to clear the air...

In 2002, Outside got in touch with me to shoot a story on the Siachen glacier, in the disputed Kashmir region - I was put in touch with Greg to get access - the initial story proposal was to cross the Siachen glacier from Pakistan to India, walking over 7000m, with missiles being fired over your head. There was talk about me coming to the US  to "train" for glacier crossing etc. I thought it was crazy and declined - a tough choice for a photographer who was just starting up.
I must have been right since the story's angle was later considerably changed: photographer and writer first had a look at Siachen's glacier and its army presence on the Pakistan side, then they went down to Islamabad to legally cross into India, make there way up to the Indian army camps opposite Siachen and complete their story. This seemed much more reasonable. Teru Kuwayama, a photographer friend met in New York in the late 90's, shot the story (great B+W work) with writer Kevin Fedarko. I was later sent to Tuvalu to shoot an interesting story on global warming for Outside, my "compensation" price. I was far from my beloved Karakoram, but that story certainly opened my horizon...

Greg's right hand man is also an old Wakhi friend of mine, Sarfraz - the older brother of my Wakhi "teacher", Alam Jan Daryo. Sarfraz is from Zood Khun, a tiny village at the end of the Chapursan valley, on the border with Afghanistan and a stone throw away (to be exact 4 days walk over a 5000m pass) from the Afghan Pamir, the home of the Afghan Kyrgyz - a story that has "obsessed" me for 10 years now. Anyway, CAI's growing involvement in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor, building schools, with the help of Sarfraz, has been of great interest to me.
The CAI recently built a school in the Afghan Pamir, at a place called Bozai Gumbaz - a 4 or 5 days walk from the nearest village of Sarhad. It's hard to imagine the remoteness of the Little Pamir - and it's cultural complexity - but all these factors made it hard for me to imagine a foundation would consider building a school there - in fact, the Aga Khan Foundation didn't consider doing it, and they are the most involved in the region.

I went back to the Afghan Pamir in January-February 2011 for my second winter expedition (first was in Jan/Feb 2008, where I collaborated with anthropologist and now friend Ted Callahan, who appears in 60 minutes). During the expedition, via our only satellite phone (who worked erratically as we were close to the China/Tajikistan border), we were asked to shoot images (video + stills) of the CAI school, by an American producer, working for CBS. Strange request to get in such a lonesome place.
The school looked like it was never-ever used. The 2 only Kyrgyz teachers in the Afghan Pamir leave too far off from the school . In fact, by the time the CAI finished building the school, the government had already started sending teachers up to the Afghan Pamir and classes were being held at 8 locations. They didn't have schools, they just used the Aga Khan Foundation tourist yurts or regular guestrooms or tents. But it worked. For these reasons, the school, so far, has never been used - at least not to the degree CAI claims...

Here is the CAI school in Bozai Gumbaz (February 2011), with UrunBai, one of the Kyrgyz leader standing proud in front.
I also attached a picture from a Aga Khan Foundation's school in Zood Khun, North Pakistan - not a CAI school. When the weather is good, students often go outside of the classroom...
And finally, a telling note "Instructions for Life", posted on the wall in that AKF school. Don't forget we are in North Pakistan, immersed in Ismaili communities, a very tolerant form of Islam whose spiritual leader is the Aga Khan.

All images © Matthieu Paley

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Strange case of Nauru - exhibition

I was recently in France for the opening of my exhibition on Nauru. 46 images and 2 videos are exhibited outdoor at the Festival Photo de Mer, from April 8th until May 8th. Other exhibitions includes stories from Ed Kashi and Chris Maluszynski.

Thanks to a grant from the Festival Photo de Mer, I spent 11 days on Nauru, the world's smallest Republic, far off in the middle of the Pacific. To turn it into a "real" story I teamed up with Geo Magazine (the German edition) staff-writer Markus Wolff. Story will soon come out in Germany.

Nauru has long been on my mind. I first heard about it in late 2001, when Afghan refugees were held in a detention center on the island. I couldn't put these 2 facts together in my head. After some research, they were so many curiously fascinating facts about the island that I just needed to go. It seemed a unique case of middle of nowhere yet middle of everything.

Here is a translation of my synopsis that got me the grant (© Matthieu Paley) :

"Nauru, an island of barely 21 km2, is located in the middle of the Pacific. It is the world’s smallest republic.
Its soil, extremely rich in phosphate, has been exploited since the beginning of the 20th century. The rapid value increase of the phosphate, followed by independence, makes Nauru the richest country in the world at the beginning of the 70’s.
As a result, falling for the temptations of uncontrolled consumerism, the Nauruans considerably change their way of life. Diabetes and the highest obesity level on the planet are some side effects of these excessive years.
End of the 90’s: the Phosphate resources diminish considerably.

Looking for financial solutions, Nauru becomes a tax-free zone, and with this a facilitator for money laundering businesses of the Russian mafia. The government also opens a detention center for Afghan and Iraqi refugees, all paid for by the Australian government...

In 2004, the state goes bankrupt. The government of Nauru decides at last to reactivate its phosphate mining. Official sources estimate that there are between 20 and 30 years left for further exploitation. The Nauruans, an isolated people, continues to look for solutions, keeping all the while their joyful island spirit.

We go to meet these men and women of Nauru, their president, a former weightlifting champion; Gerard Jones, a personal trainer and bird hunter; Lucia, the oldest lady of the country and Scarlet Lucy, the cargo ship that brings goods to the island every 2 months."

Two preview shots, the full story will soon be up on my website.

Lucia dances in her living room “I dance a lot, I pray to the Lord and I play Bingo!”. 85 years old, she is the oldest woman of the country, and the last person to have known deportation, in 1943, during the Second World War. 1200 Nauruans were then sent on the Chuuk island by the Japanese forces, and endured forced labor. Only 737 came back in 1945.  


It takes 6 hours flight from Bisbane in Australia to reach Nauru, an island state of barely 21 km2, located in the middle of the Pacific, 42 km from the equator. It is the world’s smallest republic, with less than 10.000 inhabitants. Twenty minutes of driving (19 km) will bring you around the whole country… 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Exhibition in Paris - Exposition à Paris

I will be part of a group exhibition at the Galerie de l'Instant , 46 Rue de Poitou, from 11 March until 11 May, here is the flyer. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend, as I am in Istanbul!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Please clean up that snow if you want to get on that plane - Si vous voulez monter dans cet avion, Merci de bien nettoyer la neige sur la piste d'atterissage...

I am back since 10 days from an incredible 1 month winter expedition in the afghan Pamirs! It's, of course, a long story - and over the next months I will talk about it via my images (haven't even had time to go through them yet). But, following numerous requests, here is a quick sum up...

I arrived on January 21st in Kabul. On 23rd morning, thanks to good weather, we (that's Laurent Fleutot and Louis Meunier, more about them later...) were in a hired 4 seater Kodiak (not Zodiak!) plane bound for Kret village, towards the end of the Wakhan Corridor (approx. here, where the "V" of Vakhan is written) - but still a long way to the Little Pamir region, our destination - the abode of the Afghan Kyrgyz. It was my second winter expedition there. To my knowledge no one ever went there twice in winter (I was there in 2008 as well). 7 days and many yaks, camels and horses caravans later, we were in the Little Pamir. We were there to shoot a film. You can see more about this here, on the official website (which is being built, so check again later).

We were on the road, walking, for 23 days, at about 4200m, with temperatures between -10 and -30 C, no showers and only rare smoked in shepherd houses as resting places. Of course it was tough at times, but then again, it was incredibly beautiful.

We came back down from the Little Pamir in a snow storm. After 8 days of constant snow, walking over a a frozen river (the only way down), we were back in Kret village. We called in Kabul with our satellite phone to get back on that Kodiak plane. The sky had magically cleared. We were told it's possible but please, first we needed to clean the snow off the airfield. The village head gathered a few manly souls and off we were at the airfield, shoveling off the snow that would bring us back to civilization...


Me voila rentré depuis 10 jours d'une expédition hivernale incroyable d'1 mois, dans les Pamirs Afghan! Bien évidemment, c'est une longue histoire - et je tenterais de la raconter plus en détail, via mes images, dans les mois qui viennent. En attendant,  voici une petit résumé…

Arrivé le 21 Janvier à Kaboul. Le 23 au matin, il fait beau et nous (c’est-à-dire Laurent Fleutot  et Louis Meunier – je reparlerais plus tard de mes camarades d’expé…) sommes dans Kodiak, un 4 place en partance pour le village de Kret, vers la fin du corridor du Wakhan (là ou le V de Vakhan est écrit) – mais encore bien loin du Petit Pamir, notre destination. À ma connaissance, aucun étranger n’est jamais allé 2 fois là-haut en hiver. 7 jours et de nombreuses caravanes de yacks, chameaux et chevaux plus tard, nous étions dans le Petit Pamir. Nous étions là pour touner un film. Plus d’info à ce sujet sur ce site, qui est en train d’être construit.

Nous étions en chemin pendant 23 jours de marche,  à 4200m, avec des températures entre -10 et -30, pas de douche et comme seul logis des bergeries enfumées. Cela fut dur par moments, mais tellement beau aussi !

Nous sommes redescendu du Petit Pamir dans une tempête de neige. Suite à 8 jours de neige et de marche sur la rivière gelée, nous étions de retour au village de Kret. On appela Kaboul avec notre téléphone satellite, pour essayer de remonter dans cet avion Kodiak. Le ciel s’était éclairci, comme par magie. Le pilote nous dit alors qu’il viendrait nous chercher, mais d’abord nous devions enlever tout la neige sur la piste d’atterrissage.  Qu’à cela ne tienne. Le chef du village rameuta les troupes : nous enlevions la neige à grands coups de pelles, nous frayant un chemin de retour vers la « civilisation ».

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Djibouti, for a piece of Africa.

I have just finished uploading my story on Djibouti. Below a few preview images - you can see the whole story on my website, under the link "Stories  <  Djibouti, For a piece of Africa".

A dwarf-sized country with a giant’s strategic importance, Djibouti lays at the heart of a troubled hot spot in the Horn of Africa. Of prime importance in the world of international geopolitics, it is a country of armies, secret service agencies, refugees, aid organizations and wheeler-dealers.

Djibouti is only as large as the European tip of Turkey. It has no natural resources, agriculture or forests —it barely even manages to feed its own nomads. It could have been a worthless piece of land, were it not for something that geo-strategists prize as much as property agents: its location.

A US diver searches for explosives, fearing an attack on the only US base in Africa.

Daily-wage workers unload dates sent by the UN’s World Food Programme. The destination: Ethiopia. Djibouti is one of the biggest transshipment points in the world for the UN. There, 13 to 14 million people receive assistance through the world’s largest food-aid programme—all transported through Djibouti. This tiny country is absolutely essential for the survival of a nation with the second-largest population in Africa, for Ethiopia’s traditional access to the sea via Eritrea, has been blocked since a border conflict in the late 1990s.

Almost 7 million tonnes are transshipped through the port annually. Every day, 500 Ethiopian trucks pass through, sometimes 200 for the WFP alone.

It is so hot that the beach only comes alive at sunset The old port lies on the other side. Containers are now handled at the new terminal, one of the most expensive in the world. Djibouti’s government hopes to keep capitalizing on the country’s location—and dreams of becoming a second Dubai.

“We’ll fly down the corridor and turn around at the end,” says the tactical coordinator, nicknamed ‘Tacco.’ These German army men are on a mission as part of the EU’s Operation Atalanta. They have 8 hours to locate the wooden cutters and speedboats of Somali pirates.

Setting up the first German embassy in Djibouti. Germany's army presence is there to "protect its foreign trade interests" as well as to partake in the EU's Operation Atalanta.

Somalian refugees fleeing starvation wait at the border of Djibouti for permission to enter - in vain. Only war refugees from central and southern Somalia are accepted. These women and children are from North Somalia.

Djiboutian Police inspecting bodies of recently accepted Somalian Refugee asylum seekers, on the border with Somalia. The presence of scars could indicate a refugee's involvement with extremist organizations such as Al Chabab in Somalia, in which case further questioning is necessary.

Illegal refugees sleeping on the beach. About 100 non-registered refugees arrive from Somalia every day, trying to either find work in Djibouti or to cross the Red Sea to Yemen, on their way to Dubai.

Muna is combing Tina’s hair; the two Ethiopians prostitutes will soon be heading to a club. “The best is to find an American soldier,” says Tina. “The French are the most generous clients; they pay for our apartments so that we don’t have to work. But sooner or later, they all go back to their wives.”

Hoping to prevent the Horn of Africa from becoming another refuge for Islamic terrorists post-9/11, the US has made Djibouti the headquarter of their multinational anti-terror campaign, Operation Enduring Freedom. They are on "B" security alert, same level than for places like Afghanistan and Iraq. This is ‘CLU-Ville’ or ‘Container City’, what the Americans call their living quarters at the US base, Camp Lemonnier.

US military personnel from the Civil Affairs department of the US Army on a trip to Sagallou - a medical camp mission. The trip forms part of the "3D approach" of the US Army: Development, Democracy, Defense.

The Foreign Legion, a unit of the French army, sets off on an anti-guerrilla exercise. Djibouti offers the ideal terrain - it is hot and mountainous, just like Afghanistan.

Sakatz (on top of the jeep), a Romanian man enrolled in the French Foreign legion, goes to take part in the setting up of a Forward Operating Base - an exercise in guerilla warfare in an environment very similar to the one encountered, for example, in Afghanistan.

The capital's main market lies between the European and African quarters. Recently the Chinese, as Djibouti’s most important investors, are wielding more and more influence.

President Guelleh has been in power since 1999. Djibouti may be a tiny state, but he is one of Africa’s richest men.

The end of a wedding celebration of a rich Djiboutian Army Colonel at the Sheraton hotel.

Half the population of Djibouti City lives in slums like Arhiba with little water, work or schools.

An illegal refugee in her "house". The poorest camp of all: a waste dump on the outskirts of Arhiba. It once was occupied by 4,000 huts like these—until their owners were evicted. Now, villas are being planned here.