“When you see a group of eagle hunters charging up a mountain on horseback, you realize how Mongolia almost conquered the world back with Genghis Khan,” says Cedric Angeles. “They are almost at one with their animals.” The New Orleans–based photographer, whose work focuses on disappearing cultures and traditions, first met a group of Mongolian eagle hunters during a trip to the country nearly a decade ago—and even then, he knew he had to go back. “I really fell in love with the country—the landscapes, the people, and the hospitality,” he says. “But I was also fascinated by the relationships between the hunters and the eagles themselves.” Traditionally, hunters have partnered with eagles to survive by using them to capture animals for food.
The Mongolian eagle hunters, who lead nomadic lives and spend much of the year living in portable yurts, or gers as they’re known, are with their eagles almost every second of the day, and even allow them to live inside their homes like a family member. Angeles recently spent 10 days alongside a group of these hunters—led by a man named Dalaikhan, who is striving to keep the dying tradition alive—and traveled across Mongolia’s wild terrain to an annual eagle festival held in Ulgii, a town located in the westernmost part of the country. During that time Angeles rode horses with them, hunted with them, shared meals with them, and of course, photographed them. “It was heaven for me, as a photographer, because there was such simplicity in the way they lived that it allowed me to truly focus,” he says. “There were no distractions.”
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