While the term “nomad” has been used very loosely to refer to a constant state of wandering, it’s highly likely that many of us are yet to have a first-hand nomadic experience. So, you can just imagine our excitement (and envy) when this week’s featured analogue traveler got in touch with us to show what a truly nomadic life is like. Switzerland-based Celine Meunier flew to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia in search of outdoor adventures, mountain treks, and lots of camping — all while living with local nomad families.
Surrounded by stunning peaks, lush grasslands, and fellow wanderers on horseback, Celine did well to keep up with her traveling companions with her trusty Nikon F2 paired With Kodak Portra 160 and 400 to capture these beautifully moody snapshots. She tells us more about her trip in our quick chat for this week’s Wanderlust!
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
Hi! I’m Celine and I’ve been shooting with film since 2011 when I got my first camera as a farewell present when I moved to Turkey. When I’m not shooting I love to read, play the piano, paint, or draw.
Please tell us the basics of your trip. What made you decide to head to Kyrgyzstan? When did you visit, which towns or cities did you head to, and for how long did you stay?
I wanted to go to Central Asia for a long time and specifically try to know more about nomad life. Kyrgyzstan was perfect for that. I went there at the brink of winter so there was not much people. I stayed briefly in Bishkek at the end of my trip, but mainly I was away from cities, going for treks in the mountains and staying there in yurts or my own tent.
Did you do anything special to prepare for this journey? What do you think you could or should have done differently?
I researched a lot prior to the journey because I wanted to do a precise horse trek, stay with local nomad families, and other outdoor activities. So I got in touch with locals there to organize everything. I should have probably gone for a longer stay.
What were your first thoughts when you first set foot in the country? Can you still recall the first scene or view that welcomed you as soon as you arrived?
My first thought was asking for a bed! When I arrived it was around 4 a.m.; I haven’t slept for about 24 hours and still had a whole day ahead of me. Just after leaving the airport we found a car to take us 7 hours away from Bishkek to our trek departure point, so the first scene I clearly remember seeing was the sunrise on the empty road in the car. It was around 6 a.m. probably, and before that, everything was dark.
What are some of the unexpected or unforgettable things you learned during your time with the Kyrgyz nomads?
I learned how to make fire with cowpat. Obviously, it did not appear in my pre-travel research!
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trip?
The highlight of the trip was meeting our host families. We had a few special encounters there. First, we met a very young couple in their early twenties with their young baby, living in the mountain on their own. They were impressive. I thought that they took on a responsibility that would only fall to much older people here. They were truly courageous. Another was an old woman whose husband had died and she was in charge of seven kids. She took on being the head of the household, having boys tending to the daily chores, and so on. It seemed unconventional, at least a different organization than the typical nomad family we had seen before.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself?
It’s okay not to get everything on the roll. It has to remain a trip, for you to take in some experience. It’s not all about the souvenir book you’ll get at the end. For me, images have value only if they send you back to something actual. But still, remember to take lots of film with you!
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
My dream destination would be somewhere deep underwater. I’d love to make a long exposure there, so the technicals (camera, film, etc.) would have to be worked on, I guess. But I also thought, why not try to find a tripod for my Nikonos V and give it a go with Kodak Portra 800, maybe have it pushed?
To see more of Celine’s travel photos and the rest of her works, please head to the links below: