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Kazakh childhood

France Leclerc
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Entry Fee: Free

This series of images are of Kazakh children in Western Mongolia. The Kazakhs are nomadic people who settled in Mongolia after being chased out of Kazakhstan by the Russian Empire in the 19th century. They have maintained a solid connection to the traditions they have practiced for generations, including seasonal migrations and their iconic practice of using eagles to hunt.

The Kazakhs migrate with their flocks to look for pasture as the seasons change. These images were taken at various isolated and remote locations, where extended families have decided to spend the summer. To do so, they set up “gers,” large collapsible, circular tents supported by wooden sticks that will be home for the summer. Much work is involved in this lifestyle. From sunrise to sunset, there is something to do, and everyone gets involved. Kazakh families are typically large, and children happily take part in the chores starting at a very young age. Attending to the animals, chopping wood, making cheese are a few tasks that need to be done every day, though, naturally, there is always time to play. And one could swear that the children learn to ride a horse before they learn to walk, so strong is the bond with this animal for the Kazakhs. Of course, there also is that eagle hunting. Kazakhs use eagles to hunt for rabbits, marmots, foxes, and, if very lucky, wild wolves. The animals are used for food, but more importantly, their furs help keep the Kazakhs warm through the long winter, when the hunting takes place. During that season, the ubiquitous white snow makes it harder for the prey to hide from the eagle with its notoriously good vision. But even in summer, the eagles require attention to keep them healthy for their working season in the coming months.

France Leclerc, born in Quebec, Canada, is an independent photographer who currently lives in Chicago. Her early career was in academia, teaching at MIT and the University of Chicago, but in 2005 she decided to make a change to pursue her passion for documentary photography. Although this may seem like an unlikely change of focus, the curiosity and hunger for learning that had motivated her academic research did not vanish. France now uses photography as a vehicle to understand and help depict issues that puzzle her and satisfy her passion for learning. Among her most prominent themes are culture (especially ancient ones), gender, and poverty. Her images have won numerous awards, including being a finalist in the prestigious Portrait of Humanity Award.

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Entry Fee: Free
© Rob Johnston

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