paleyphoto paleyphoto

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Matthieu Paley  Mostly latergrams, assignments and family, sometimes IG Story • Photographer @natgeo • Commercial @natgeocreative • Currently in a van in Portugal

Paul Salopek making his way up Irshad, a remote mountain pass connecting Afghanistan and Pakistan. The next day, because of a mix up, Paul and I were arrested by the Pakistani secret service. Here is an extract from Paul’s evocative text, describing that unexpected turn of event (September issue of National Geographic magazine):
"Early that morning, in a coarse ice mist, we set out with two pack donkeys to climb Irshad Pass [...]. Climbing a mountain under such conditions is a strange and disorienting experience. It was like scaling a frozen and crazily tilted sea […]. We tottered along ice-rimed cliffs. Snow hid fatal crevices. Sometimes the donkeys fell through the crust and refused to get up. […] By midday a blizzard was in full gust.
“Hello, Arthur, can you do me a favour?” Paley was shouting into the satellite phone. We couldn’t see a hundred steps ahead, much less the peaks far above. Paley’s brother in Paris googled and read out to us the GPS coordinates for Irshad.
Irshad Pass rises 16,335 feet above sea level. We finally reached it at sunset. Paley ventured a feeble victory dance. I gulped air so thin and metallic it cut my lungs like razor blades. Gales had scoured the summit to raw bedrock. Without shelter or firewood, it was a hazardous place to camp. But we had little choice. […]
Plainclothes Pakistani security forces confronted us the next night while we camped at the eastern end of the Hindu Kush. We had notified the government of our plan to enter Pakistan via Irshad. We carried valid visas issued in advance. But the officers, armed with AK-47s, insisted we had trespassed into a restricted zone. Overnight, they drove us to the frontier town of Gilgit. In detention there, I overheard Paley, curled on his cot, parroting in his emphatic Norman accent the lines from a film playing on his hidden mobile phone: “An eye for an eye only ends up making zee whole world blind.” “Matthieu,” I whispered, “are you watching Gandhi in an intelligence agency safe house?” / with @outofedenwalk and @arthurpaley
#Karakoram #hindukush #mountainpass #afghanborder #natgeo #mediumformat

Link in profile - I walked away from my tent, to a higher place for better reception. The satellite phone rang and my wife @paleyography picked up - there she was in another world. They came from down below, in line, dust flying, reminding me of some Hells Angels on their motorcycles, except way more badass. “Some guys are coming up, I should take a picture”, I hanged up the phone. Sidol, Jumagul and Assan Khan were just back from checking the growth of grasses at a lower elevations. That grass will be used for animal fodder in the winter months. They drove those 1000Kg beast with incredible skills, down steep valleys across rivers, blissfully unaware of their cool factor. We headed to camp to have some tea with warm milk and too much sugar, hardcore. Visit the link in my profile to read my latest National Geographic magazine story (September 2018) titled “Passage to Another Time”, with @outofedenwalk #yak #hellsangels #nationalgeographicmagazine #beast #highaltitude #wakhancorridor #afghanistan #boysband #ridingyak #shepherdlife

The carriers of gigantic “food clips” as my ace editor @sadiequarrier likes to call them... pretty accurate as these wooden boards are used to clamp large quantities of hay to carry them to the “tcharöm”, the threshing floor. The whole process of making bread does not include a drop of oil, nothing is mechanized. Now, does these “food clips” have a name in English? On assignment for @natgeo #evolutionofdiet #traditionalagriculture #makingbread #afghanistan

The girl twists the tail of the cow, reluctant to make it back home. Tomorrow, we walk towards those distant mountain walls, a long trek up into the Afghan Pamir towards the Karakoram mountains, hopefully into Pakistan... Assignment for @natgeo #wakhancorridor #landscapephotography #hindukushmountains #afghanistan

After tea, Bibi Bejoda and her son Javed in the corridor that exits her simple home, soot on the mud wall. She offered that I stay longer, guests are a gift she said... I would need several lives to repay all the hospitality that I have enjoyed in this region. On assignment for @natgeo, crossing afghanistan on foot with @outofedenwalk #workinghands #blueeyes #redveil #wakhan

There are few shrines in the Wakhan, they are called « Oston ». They are places of natural beauty where this or that miracle happened... a spring, a rock with a strange mark on it or a spectacular tree. These are often pre-islamic places of worship. Here, these women enjoyed the shades of such tree, gathering the tiny fallen branches to put them away at the base of the trunk; like children brought back to the feet of their mother. Here, wood is never taken out of the shrine and only burnt during particular yearly celebrations. Swipe right for another Oston decorated with flags, near Baba Tangi village. I find that these places evoke more spiritual power than the biggest cathedral or mosque or any fancy temple... On assignment for @natgeo #afghanistan #worshipnature

Just back from Iran. Here a published image from my upcoming @natgeo magazine story, crossing part of Afghanistan on foot. Qala-e Panjah village, I stayed here 12 years earlier, my wife @paleyography and I bought a donkey for our journey. I am alone this time, sleeping on a flowery mattress on the floor, cared lovingly by guests. They always work on making me feel special. Early morning, everyone was so well dressed. On the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid, a feast is prepared in the kitchen and the children are buzzing around, sliced by light. @outofedenwalk #slicedbylight #eidoutfit #afghanistan

Running to Mother, where it all begins. #tawiz #motherofall #runningtomama #afghanistan

The tiniest red dot on the bottom left, my backpack climbing up 🎒 and Paul @outofedenwalk ahead of it, our eyes on a high pass, the only way out of this valley. Twelve years ago I walked the same path with @paleyography, not sure of how we would make it across into Pakistan, alone in the world with our donkey. Time has blurred my memory but these mountain beauties stand strong, my emotions unchanged. The djinns are alive and well. On assignment for @natgeo, story coming up next month. #afghanpamirs #hindukush #karakoram #pamirknot #bordercrossing #djinnworld

With photography it’s very much about what happened then, the context is what sticks most. That man came out of a dark corner, wanted his picture taken and then disappeared as soon as I had taken it, into the fading day, unnamed. I just remember the daze in his eyes, my confusion. #afghanistan

Through sea buckthorns, off to look for the village’s calves. #afghanistan #seabuckthorn

Hot springs are precious... what a gift to have hot water year round. Ato Mohammed and his dad, shortly before walking back home, down the valley to their village. Looking at their faces, it’s fascinating to consider the implications on human migration. Think of our history, of all the ancient paths that have been taken to reach every corner of the earth, all the drama and excitement that must have taken place (and still is taking place) - from an upcoming @natgeo assignment walking across Afghanistan with the amazing and humbling @outofedenwalk #redhair #afghanistan #butdidyouaskpermission?

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