Among the eagle hunters: Ottawa photographer captures Kazakh clan's timeless migration

For Ottawa photographer Louise Radmore, it was the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to follow the people of the Kazakh clan of Mongolia as they travelled across the Altai Mountains.

Louise Radmore chosen to document disappearing way of life on journey through Mongolian mountains

Radmore followed the Kazakh clan from February to March 2017 through Mongolia's Altai Mountains as they travelled with their animals to their spring camp. (Courtesy Louise Radmore)

For a resident of Ottawa, the fierce cold of the frozen desert of western Mongolia's Altai Mountains might not seem like unfamiliar territory, particularly after the winter we've had so far.

But for Louise Radmore, one of eight photographers allowed to follow the Kazakh eagle hunters of Mongolia last February and March, nearly everything about the journey represented a culture shock.

"I don't think much has changed in this culture since the days of Genghis Khan.... Trucks are the latest innovation, but otherwise they are living the same nomadic lifestyle," she told Hallie Cotnam on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

​Radmore had long been fascinated by the remote central Asian country, but her interest was recently rekindled when she saw a documentary by Timothy Allen on BBC's Human Planet about the Kazakh people.

Entered competition

Allen opened a competition to photographers to document the life of Kazakhs, who use eagles to hunt for prey such as fox.

Radmore decided to enter, and to her surprise she was selected. Now, some 8,500 images later, she has returned and will be talking about the trip at Ottawa's RA Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

"I want to record their lifestyle because unfortunately I believe it is disappearing," Radmore said. "The children now are in boarding school months at a time. They are being exposed to western culture, and like all children they want Adidas shirts, they want technology."

Here's a selection of Radmore's photos from her journey with the Kazakh eagle hunters.

Louise Radmore says she was about 300 metres away from this Kazakh eagle hunter when she took this shot. 'This is one photo that I am very proud of.' (Courtesy Louise Radmore)
The Kazakh clan migrates with some 1,200 animals, including horses. (Courtesy Louise Radmore)
Radmore described this girl, a member of the family she followed through the Altai Mountains, as 'a natural eagle hunter.' (Courtesy Louise Radmore)
A boy and three of his sisters with the Kazakh clan of Mongolia pose with an eagle trained to aid in the hunt. Radmore had wanted to take the photo with the eldest girl holding the bird, but the girls's grandfather interceded, insisting the eagle be perched on the boy's arm instead. 'It's just another indication that boys are more valued than girls in this culture,' Radmore said. (Courtesy Louise Radmore)
Clans that travel with migratory herd animals live much like they did hundreds of years ago, but have embraced some technological innovations, such as the truck pictured in the background. (Courtesy Louise Radmore)
Many of the Kazakh children attend boarding schools for months at a time, one of the ways the clan's culture is changing, Radmore says. (Courtesy Louise Radmore)

With files from CBC's Ottawa Morning