Photographer Asher Svidensky was attracted with the story of a 13-year-old Ashol Pan, a young girl who was requested by her father to take the place of her brother once he departed for military service. Pan was up to the task and though still in school, forging a strong connection with her eagle became one of her top priorities.
It is certainly not easy training a young golden eagle which involves blindfolding the bird for extended periods. This is done to develop a reliance on its trainer, and the tedious process involves a lot of time and patience. Shot against a background of the serenely desolate Mongolian mountains these images photographed by Svidensky show Pan getting herself immersed in a masculine activity that has been passed on through many generations.
“I decided to focus myself; stop looking for a portrait of a centuries old image of a Kazakh eagle hunter, and instead represent the future of this ancient Mongolian tradition,” said Svidensky. The Israeli-Russian photographer spent a day with each of the families he photographed during a four month journey that traversed western Mongolia. It was a rugged trip as most of his travels were done on horseback, as paved roads in that part of the central Asian country are scarce.
Svidensky chose Pan to really demonstrate the future of this past-time. “I didn’t want to add an additional version of the previous shots, but rather look for something more than ‘another boy’,” he explained. In one of the photographs he shows her release an eagle as large as her upper torso whilst perched on top of a mountain.
Previously, such an image would have been improbable. These days however, even in Mongolia, girls are being trained to tame these wild glorious birds of prey. Pan’s father, Han Gohadok, said that his firstborn son was all set to take over the hunting duties but, since the army draft came about, he was not expecting him back anytime soon. Nevertheless, despite his daughter’s willingness to step into her brothers shoes, Han says he would not impose on her to take on the role full-time, unless she overtly requested it.
See this amazing young teen handle the fabled and mighty golden eagle here.