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Extract

The Fabric of Life: Ergun Çağatay’s Epic Journey

For 15 years, as the Cold War thawed, the photographer Ergun Çağatay criss-crossed the vast expanse of the Turkic-speaking world. Capturing people at work, at play and at prayer, he unravelled the threads of myth and culture that unite them across wildly varying lands. Caroline Eden tells Çağatay’s remarkable story

  • Pilgrims’ progress: A woman prays with her children at the foot of the Kutluğ-Timur Minaret in Kunya-Urgench, where pilgrims walk round in an anticlockwise direction. The tallest minaret in Central Asia, this steeply tapering monument measures 12 metres in diameter at its base and just two at the top, soaring to a height of 62 metres. A lantern on top served to guide distant caravans at night. The original minaret dates from 1011, but was restored or possibly rebuilt by Kutluğ-Timur (1321–36), whose name it still bears Kunya-Urgench,Turkmenistan

Like all great photographers, Ergun Çağatay had that rare skill of pressing the shutter at precisely the right moment. But for every image taken, years of work had gone before.


Subscribers can read the full article here. For more than a decade, the Izmir-born photographer criss-crossed the Turkic-speaking world. Setting out in the 1990s, after recovering from injuries sustained in a near-fatal bomb attack in Paris ten years earlier, Çağatay covered more than 100,000 miles travelling from Lithuania in the west to Yakutia in eastern Siberia. His aim in traversing this vast landmass was to capture the people and cultures that over centuries have risen from its steppes, snowy wastes and desert sands. Each photograph is as clear-eyed as it is humane, and each illustrates Çağatay’s extraordinary range and artistic power. By the end he had produced more than 40,000 images.

‘The Land of the Anka Bird: A journey through the Turkic heartlands’. Photographs by Ergun Çağatay, with text by Caroline Eden, published by Cornucopia Books, £25, from cornucopia.net/ankabird

Caroline Eden’s other books are ‘Samarkand’ (Kyle Books, 2016), ‘Black Sea’ (Quadrille, 2018) and ‘Red Sands’ (Quadrille, 2020). Twitter and Instagram: @edentravels

To read the full article, purchase Issue 62

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Issue 62, 2021 Travellers’ Tales
£12.00 / $16.49 / €13.84
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  • ... And a magnificent Süleyman

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Buy the issue
Issue 62, 2021 Travellers’ Tales
£12.00 / $16.49 / 134.46 TL
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