Xinjiang

Tightly-packed, low-rise buildings form dusty runways that coral scurrying people from salon to Tabac, life partially hidden from view by a blanket of thick, bubbling wood-smoke pouring from every architectural orifice.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

The Night Market

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

As dusk falls over this archaic western outpost, a thriving night market erupts in a raucous entanglement of fat, dust, and sweat. The scene is pitched against such an inescapable medley of localized tongue that it’s enough to make one wished they’d studied the local dialect a little harder.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Trans-China National Highway

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Xinjiang

The revving of an over-worked engine passes us at over ninety, stampeding the melting tarmac as if behind schedule.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Belle and Sebastian

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Pamir

A young girl sits on the side of a remote single track road passing through the Pamir’s, right at the border with Afghanistan. Hand washing a red dress, she works the material over, her best friend watching with hungry eyes. They converse together in sign-language, broken mandarin and the occasional woof.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Down Town Kashgar

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

The western border lands of China contrast wildly with the eastern Shanghai seaboard. Here, the indigenous population evidently belong on the other side of China’s vast western border. But that’s another story.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

A Tolkien Landscape

D700 / 14 – 24 f2.8 / Khunjerab Pass

Travelling 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, 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.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Ascending Muztaghata

D700 / 14 – 24 f2.8 / Lake Karakul

Early morning wind rasps through barren grasslands, wild horses drink at the edge of lake Karakul as sleepy shepherds trek the wild landscape with sheep in tow. Mount Muztagh Ata reflects on the still morning waters of the lake as the gentle  wind lifts birds to flight. Outside this bubble of bliss the harsh martian landscape surrounds us like wolves baying at the door.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Boy With Bike

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Hotan

A young boy sits on the family motorcycle, polishing a dusty fuel tank in the midst of a mild sand storm. Sitting a few metres away, his parents crouch on the road curb sorting through small pieces of Jade.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

An Open Window

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

As dusk falls on kashgar, the rarer scenes, the ones that make it all seem worthwhile, quietly appear in doorways and open windows. Waiting, watching, wishing.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Reservoir Dogs

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Yarkant

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.

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

School’s Out

D4 / 70-200 f2.8 / Kashgar

Running through the centre of Kashgar, the main road becomes a hive of activity twice a day as local Uighur schools manage their student population.

Ejected roughly from a loosely air-conditioned cab, we spill out into Kashgar’s archaic sandstone market centre. Once a major gateway on the silk route from the farthest reaches of western China through to snowy Pakistan and beyond, Kashgar now resembles a dusty set from 1970s Hong Kong cinema. It’s torn at the seams, a dilapidated mix of ancient brick work and modern concrete glued together by the native Uighur population. Fumbling for a camera, I steady my rudely awakened body against a less-than-adequate lamp post and begin to take in the sepia-infused locale.

Tightly-packed, low-rise, buildings form dusty runways that coral scurrying people below from salon to Tabac, life partially hidden from view by a blanket of thick, bubbling wood-smoke pouring from every architectural orifice. The viscous smoke stacks rise upwards, rallying together and aggressively suffocating the black crenellated shadow forming a biblical horizon. Momentarily poetic.

Our cab splutters and pulls away leaving us stranded outside the peeling green doors of an old youth hostel. Inside, dimly lit dormitories encircle a mosaiced open courtyard, currently home to a pack of motorcyclists from Beijing quietly fixing their metal steeds. Above, a European cyclist perches on a balcony watching the entourage below, occasionally stabbing at his notepad with thoughts, pausing only to look wistfully at the bubbling horizon. We check in and 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.

  • Beijing
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BARNABY JACO SKINNER

Photographer & Artist

All content copyright Barnaby Jaco Skinner 2018

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error: All images and text are copyrighted by Barnaby Jaco Skinner 2018
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