thirteen year old ashol pan is part of a nascent movement of girls who are keeping alive the six thousand year old kazakh tradition of golden eagle hunting known as berkutchy.
though long the monopoly of boys — once deemed uniquely strong enough to carry a full grown eagle on their arms and endure harsh winter hunts — fewer are now learning the skill, abandoning their traditional semi nomadic ways for life in the cities.
berkutchy is a life long profession, and is often a hereditary one. but ashol’s brother left for the military, leaving her father, an experienced eagle hunter, to ask if she would take his place and assume training.
asher svidensky — who took these photos during a four month trek in the mountains of western mongolia’s bayan ulgii (or “rich cradle”) province, where only 250 hunters remain — told the bbc that where most boys are at first apprehensive around their eagles, ashol was very much at ease.
ashol, though still in school, will spend much of her time nurturing her eagle, imprinting herself on the fiercely independent bird from birth. after much time and training, her eagle — who is considered a member of the family — will learn to track down rabbits, foxes and wolves, whose fur is needed for the harsh winters.
Inspired by a pursuit of beauty, Riley combines classically thoughtful botanical designs with Parker’s carefully considered film images in an expression of the multifaceted relationship between humankind and nature. The two artists contrast anonymous portraiture with sweeping landscapes in an attempt to capture both the malleable and untamed aspects of the natural world.
In the words of a herder who lives outside Ulaanbataar, Mongolia’s capital, “We Mongols respect horse as our companion of night and day. The horse is the source of joy and pride of a Mongolian herder. And we are nothing without our horses.”
Beyond Ulaanbataar, the horse is still the main means of transportation. Mongolian children learn to ride when they are as young as three years old. Horse racing is a favorite sport, and young children are often the jockeys, as the Mongolians believe the race tests the horse’s ability, not the rider’s.