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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Johnny Haglund

May11

The Kalash people

By Johnny Haglund, Thursday May 11, 2017
Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/60sec at f/2.8, ISO 1250.

Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/60sec at f/2.8, ISO 1250. © Johnny Haglund

In the far west of Pakistan, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, just a few kilometers from the border with Afghanistan, lies the territory of the Kalash people. Surrounded by Islam, they still practice their ancient religion and culture – and it’s a matriarchal society.

The men and boys don’t look too different from other Pakistanis, but the girls and women do; with their colourful dresses and beautiful headgear they are quite a feast for anyone with the slightest interest in photography.

I was here 22 years ago and not much has changed. But a few things have. Back then a few hardy travellers visited one or more of these three valleys where the Kalash people live. Due to security very few foreigners have been here in the last decade. (It is not too safe today either, so when we left, Chitral, a heavily armed policeman was assigned to travel with us. And he was at a five-metre distance from us at all times.) So now, being a bleak Norwegian guy with a big camera, I get a huge amount of attention. And, more importantly, back in 1995 most of the women were quite fed up of being in front of a foreigner’s camera lens, but now it’s different.

I feel it’s a lot easier to be a photographer here now than back in 1995. I believe they are not unfamiliar with being photographed because of another thing that has changed significantly since my last visit here: the amount of domestic tourists. Tourists from Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and many more places in Pakistan frequently visit the Kalash people. A lot of bad things have happened because of this, but that’s another story.

To get close to the Kalash, I stayed with a Kalash family for two nights. I wish I had more time. The trick always is to get to know your subjects, so they relax in front of the lens and behave naturally. This takes time and patience.

Here are some of my images.

Reflections in a mirror. In a small home the women are sewing dresses while the kids play around… or chew bubble gum. Taken on an 
 EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/100sec at f/8, ISO 1600.

Reflections in a mirror. In a small home the women are sewing dresses while the kids play around… or chew bubble gum. Taken on an
EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/100sec at f/8, ISO 1600. © Johnny Haglund

Popular. A young boy with a cycle becomes very popular among the younger kids. Taken against the early morning sun. With the good dynamic range in the EOS-1D X Mark II, this kind of photo has information even in the darkest shadows and in the harsh, white light. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 500.

Popular. A young boy with a cycle becomes very popular among the younger kids. Taken against the early morning sun. With the good dynamic range in the EOS-1D X Mark II, this kind of photo has information even in the darkest shadows and in the harsh, white light. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 500. © Johnny Haglund