Traveling on the DL

2015-05-10_0007 It can be a big headache to spend days on a train or a bus when a 6 hour plane flight is available to the same destination. To stay in hostels, with 6 roommates and a lack of personal space, when a hotel room is available. Personally, I'd never do it any other way though, unless I'm pressed for time.

I set out across China on the train and it took me a week to get from Shanghai to Bishkek. Along the way, I made stops in Kashgar and Osh. Traveling in this way feeds my idea engine. It gives me greater opportunity to interact with locals and travelers alike in an organic way, all who have interesting perspectives on the world around them, and may have suggestions on interesting things to see and do. My project with the shepherds here in Kyrgyzstan grew out of this travel method, which in turn has inspired another project I will shoot next year. Had it not been for my friend I met in that Mumbai hostel, I would have likely never traveled on horse, and never had ideas for either that project or the one I am currently out photographing.

Travel is so much more about who I meet wherever it is I go. People and their perspectives inspire me, and for that reason, I prefer to stay on the ground as often as I can, looking for ways to interact with the world around me. It's a privilege to have the time to travel slow, but it's also a choice. I find that personally, the rewards far outweigh the discomfort and extra time.

Below is a selection of my favorite images from my stop in Kashgar on the way to Bishkek (and one from the drive across Kyrgyzstan from the Chinese border). I'm currently in the town of Karakol (Kyrgyzstan), to photograph the animal market here tomorrow. It opens at 5am before the sun rises, so it'll be an early one. Next week, I'll be setting off into the mountains for a month, to ride horses, live with shepherds, hear their stories, and photograph their lives. It's really a dream to be out here doing what I love; photography, the outdoors, adventure, travel; I'm grateful for the support of VSCO and the Artist Initiative to make this happen. I'll be putting more updates out as the summer progresses, here on the blog and also my VSCO Journal.

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Trek With Me In Kyrgyzstan

Alright, so as promised, I wanted to let you know about an trek I'm leading this summer in Kyrgyzstan in more detail. The trip is being organized through my good friends over at EPIC-ABROAD, and the travel package includes everything you need to get in and out: airfare from your departure city, housing and lodging in country and all transfers between villages and cities. All you are responsible is for is food and anything else you want to do while there! This is not a photo tour per say, but if you like photography, it is a great opportunity to see some really cool stuff. I'll be more than happy to assist you in that regard as well :) I personally will be planning the routes, leading the trek, and showing you some of my favorite spots in the mountains that I have been to. To give you an idea of what scenery to expect, check out the photographs below!





The trip itself will be 7 days of trekking on foot through the mountains and valleys. The official dates are the 15th of August through the 23rd of August (with the trekking in the middle of it), but the airfare can be arranged anyway you'd like, if you wish to see other things in the country while you are there. What to expect and prepare for:

  • Elevations of 3000m-4000m (9,500ft-13,500ft)
  • Temperatures from -10ºC to 25ºC
  • Rain and Snow (at higher altitudes)
  • Extremely powerful sun
  • Incredible scenery!

The trek itself will be intense, but fun! We will average 6-8km of walking per day, and will be truly out in the wilderness (no cell reception). Weather can swing from summer to winter in a matter of minutes, so being warm and dry is key. Mountain weather is extremely unpredictable!

We'll send you a full recommended packing list when you sign up, but here are the basics you will need:

  • Camping gear (warm sleeping bag and tent)-I can help you select the appropriate equipment if you don't have it, and we can work out sharing tents after the final list is made if you are interested.
  • Water purification tablets-you can use other means, but this is the simplest and surefire way to guarantee that you have clean water. Drinking directly from the streams and lakes is not recommended, as there is often livestock roaming in the area.
  • Camp stove and pot-I will help you purchase food and cooking gas in Bishkek. It's easy and cheap, so don't worry!
  • A good wind/rain jacket.
  • Sunblock and a hat
  • Sturdy boots
  • A good backpack that can hold what you need for the trek plus space for food.

If you are interested in some wild adventure, this is for you! If you have questions as to what to expect or pack in greater detail, please don't hesistate to contact me or the lovely folks at EPIC-ABROAD. We want to get you out there to see this incredible place! You can sign up for the adventure here.

See you in August!

VSCO Artist Initiative

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 3.00.03 PM Well, I'm really excited to finally be able to share this news, as it's been in the works for some time now. My work in Kyrgyzstan this summer has been awarded a grant through the Artist Initiative fund created by Visual Supply Company (VSCO). The announcement is posted here if you would like to read it! I'm really grateful for their support and for the opportunity to do this project fully.

Last year, I really wished that I could have spoken with the shepherds that I lived with and met along the way during my journey. This year, I'm taking a translator along with me to help bridge that language barrier, and in the process hopefully gathering first hand accounts and stories from the shepherds themselves about life in Kyrgyzstan. The grant from VSCO has made this possible for me to accomplish this piece of the project which is so essential to what I want to achieve with my work there.

For those that are not familiar with VSCO and the platform they have created for the art community, go check out the Grid and the Journal. The grid is a collection of images from artists around the globe and the journal is a platform for sharing stories. In addition to my normal outlets for sharing my journeys and travels with you (this blog and Instagram), this year I'm also going to be sharing my experiences and project updates through my personal VSCO Grid and Journal as well. Follow me there to get updates about my travels and how the project is going!


Summer 2015: Kyrgyzstan Round Two

scan11 I sat down yesterday and realized that I'm only two weeks away from starting my adventure this summer in Kyrgyzstan. I could not be more excited to get on the road and get after it! I've been somewhat quiet with my plans for the summer, though most know where I'm headed. But I wanted to tell you about what I'm planning to do out there this year.

The idea formed as I traveled through the mountains last year. Traditionally, the Kyrgyz have been subsistence shepherds, meaning that they have been living solely from their animals and trading them. If you haven't seen it, take a look at the article about the Afghan Kyrgyz that National Geographic published back in 2012. When the USSR fell in 1991, Kyrgyzstan fell into economic turmoil, as the country struggled to transition to post-Soviet existence.

A predominantly rural and agricultural economy, Kyrgyzstan has been slowly recovering over the past two decades. As I rode among the shepherds in 2014, I learned how they have turned their history as such into a means of living beyond pure subsistence. In many ways, while they are still self sufficient much like they have been for thousands of years, the shepherds are also small business owners, making an income through the sale of their animals and associated co-products like wool, milk, and meat. This shift to small business in addition to a subsistence living has been successful in combating some of the worst poverty within the country, while helping to sustain the legacy of the Kyrgyz as a people group.

So in early May, I'll be heading to Bishkek to start doing research on the ground, gathering data, testimonies, and first hand accounts from the shepherds themselves. From there, I'll head to the mountains, and photograph their lives as it reflects their heritage in modern day Kyrgyzstan, and the issues that exist in land management and livestock rearing as a business and economic driver for the country. Hopefully I'll get to visit many of my friends from last year, and make some new ones along the way.

Additionally, I have several other stories that I'm going to document while I'm there, including documenting an arts festival (largest in Central Asia) and a chicken farming small business initiative.


Finally, late in August I'm going to be leading a week of trekking out in the mountains. I do this kind of stuff because I love it first and foremost, and Kyrgyzstan is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. If you are interested in seeing this incredible country, this is a great opportunity. I'll share more on this a bit later, but if you are interested, don't hesitate to contact me for more information.

(PS-it seems that I'm using Instagram more and more these days as my blog. If you're interested in what I'm up to on a more regular basis, I'd recommend adding me there using @stturn. I keep it up to date with my whereabouts, micro adventures, and thoughts. Add me there!)