XIN JIANG

Ejected roughly from a loosely air-conditioned cab, we spill out into Kashgar’s archaic sandstone market centre; once a major gateway from the farthest reaches of western China through to snowy Pakistan, Kashgar now resembles an overused set from 1970s hong kong cinema. Fumbling for a Nikon I steady my rudely awakened body against a less-than-adequate lamp post, and begin to take in the dusty sepia-infused atmosphere.

Tightly-packed, low-rise, yellow-brick buildings form dusty runways that coral scurrying people below from salon to Tabac, life partially hidden from view by a blanket of thick grey bubbling wood-smoke pouring from every architectural orifice. As the viscous smoke rises upwards it rallies and aggressively suffocates the black crenelated shadow that forms a biblical horizon. Momentarily poetic. 

The cab splutters and pulls away leaving us stranded outside the peeling green doors of an old youth hostel. Inside, dimmly lit dormatories encircle a dusty mosaiced open courtyard home to a pack of motorcyclists from Beijing quietly fixing their metal steeds. A European cyclist perches on a balcony above, watching the entouarge below he occasionally stabs at his notepad with random thoughts, pausing only to look wistfully at the horizon. We pass by a time-worn computer moaning wearily as an earnest traveller attempts, unsuccessfully, to check the weather forecast, and somewhere behind closed doors a hardy fridge hums happily laden full of locally produced honey beer.

Stashing our gear underneath dusty matresses there’s a momentary wrestle with an uncooperative stained-glass window. Begrudgingly the ancient warped metal frame swings outwards and through a sea of dust motes dancing in the heavy air our first view of Kashgar streams through. Rescuing a couple more cameras we leave our precious gear packed and vaguely hidden in a varity of obvious places and take our first steps out into the dense, smoky shadows.

A Tolkien Landscape

D700 / 14 – 24 f2.8 / Khunjerab Pass

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
Traveling the Karakorum Highway from Kashgar up to the snowy peaks of the Pamir mountains, our clapped-out thirty year-old car sets a steady pace through the windy lowlands, the ice-capped peaks in the distance promising stories and adventures in equal measure. This gateway to Pakistan resembles a landscape from Tolkien’s middle earth. We arrive at the deserted border, a howling wind preventing us from venturing too far. A handful of bored Chinese guards keep a careful eye on us as we pick our way around the farthest outpost on china’s western frontier, nothing exists here except for the occasional rhythmic chugging of an over-laden mini-bus heading for Pakistan.

A Momentary Pause

D700 / 50 f1.4 / Yarkant

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
The livestock market leaves nothing to the imagination, it’s a time-tested script of source-to-sell perfectly executed on a clockwork schedule. Stepping through a heavy door of yellowed plastic sheets, the cool interior of the death house is a refreshing change from the blistering heat outside. Laid out across the blood-stained tiled floor of this single-room building are row upon row of cattle, strung up by their legs, bleeding out. Two young men weilding sharp knifes eyeball me and my camera with disdain, fresh blood dripping off the tips of their blades as they slowly run a whetstone over the razor sharp steel, almost as if inviting me to stand in line. More cattle are ushered in and the routine repeats; praying, cutting, skinning and skilfully butchering every inch of every animal. Nothing is left except thick crimson blood running down choked gutters to the world outside.

Boy With Bike

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Hotan

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
A young boy sits on the family motorcycle, polishing a dusty fuel tank in the midst of a mild midday sand storm. Sitting a few metres away, his parents crouch on the road curb sorting through small pieces of multi-colored Jade they fished out of the White Jade River.

The Night Market

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
As dusk falls over this archaic western outpost, a thriving night market erupts in a raucous entanglement of fat, dust, and sweat pitched against such an inescapable medley of localized tongue that it’s enough to make one wished they had studied the local dialect a little harder, if not at all.

Vulcan, the king of black gold

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar 

With one perfect blow he strikes the black gold with a hard and experienced nonchalance, straight down the seam a crack erupts and with a silent scream shatters into a million dark shards.
Barnaby Jaco Skinner

End of the Line

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Yarkant

Outside the back of the abbatoir a loud, dense periodic hum envelops the surroundings. A single circular saw slices with an almost robotic frequency as sheep’s heads are cut from their horns to provide materials for local tradesmen. Horns are to become dagger handles, skulls will soon be boiling in broth, and entrails of all sorts are laid out and picked through for who-knows-what. A veritable feast.
Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Belle and Sebastian

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Pamir

A young girl sits on the side of a lonely single track road passing through the Pamir moutnain range. Hand washing a dusty red dress, her best friend watches with hungry eyes, probably hoping for a snack to jump out. The friends converse together in sign-langauge, broken manadarin and the occasional woof.
Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Down Town Kashgar

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

The western boarder lands of China contrast wildly with the eastern shanghai seaboard. Here, the indigionous population evidently belong on the other side of China’s vast westen border. But that’s another story.
Barnaby Jaco Skinner

An Open Window

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Trans China National Highway

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Xinjiang

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
A sudden rush of noise from behind, the honk of a horn, the revving of an over-worked engine and a motorbike passes us at over ninety, stampeding the melting tarmac as if behind schedule. The Nikon leaps out the window with me closely behind, hanging a full half-body out in mid-air whilst white noise takes over. Fighting against the ravaging wind I heave the heavy black camera up to eye level and it’s already focusing before I compose, eager to capture the majestic scene ahead.

Reservoir Dogs

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Yarkant

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
Dawn brings a short bumpy ride to the Sunday cattle market. Pulling in the local farmers and domestic tourists alike, mutton adorns every menu, sweet, gritty teas spill from over-filled tea-pots, and long-deceased cattle rock gently in a calm breeze, strung-up on stall corners and slowly stripped of their meat until only their bare bleached bones remain.

School’s Out

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
The main road running through the centre of Kashgar becomes a hive of activity twice a day as the local Uighur school manages it’s student population. Domestic tourism is growing in Xin Jiang, but with tensions raising between the native Uigur and the ubiquitous Han, it’s proving hard to bring money in from the rest of China’s deep pockets.

Read More about China

Huangyaguan Changcheng

Maurice is first to slip under the main gate, deftly ducking and rolling under the China-red wrought iron gate, and with an almighty creak unbolts the locked blockade from inside. The monolithic gateway gently swings outwards, leaving just enough space for us to slide through before locking it tight once again…

Flashgun vs Shotgun

FLASHGUN VS SHOTGUN What started with an innocent purchase on the outskirts of Kashgar's bustling cattle market, ended with a full-frontal shotgun submission in the farthest reaches of China’s western borderlands. Growing up, I watched the Moomins on television, read...

The Great Wall

THE GREAT WALL Grey mists and a stiff breeze usher in a welcome morning, eye-lids rocking open to swirling cloud overhead, a rolling, tumbling viscous soup caressing the wooded landscape. The dense valley tree line acts as a natural filter, slowing the smothering...

WHY #10IMG?

Because it makes me a stronger photographer.

I found that after 15 years shooting digital my field-work attitude had shifted for the worse; I became accustomed to the high FPS my Nikons could turn over, became lazy when bracketing for HDR, began to abuse high ISO and just accepted the grain in all weather. I’d even leave my tripod at home and just make do with image stabilistion. Above all, I’d become lazy, relying on technology to finish a process I’d start in my mind. I didn't start like that during my analog, it just slowly happened, and I'd soon lost track of why I picked up a camera to begin with.

So I changed.

Forcing ourselves to select a small number of images amongst an infinite number of possibilities enables us to think deeper about our photography, it gives us motivation and focus during times of lack-luster malaise, and it aligns our thoughts, encouraging thematic expression in collections. In a sense, it's a mix of film and digital mentality; sure you can shoot as many as you like, practice technique, play with ideas, really make use of the benefits digital offers. But no matter how many you shoot, you can only display 10, no more. So think a while before you shoot, what is it you're actually doing?

It's worth noting that 10IMG isn't about obsessive image matching for competitions or exhibitions, nor is it particularly constrained when choosing images for individual pools; think of it as a guiding principle designed to maintain standards and encourage exploration in photography and art as you move through life.

With regards to my photography, I use #10IMG to reduce my collections to only the images I deem fit for purpose; that is to say, those images which affected me the most when shot, or images which exhibit an iconic quality in terms of subject matter or juxtaposition, or even images which contrast with one another in every way possible.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner
Photographer & Artist

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