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A glimpse into the last nomadic lives

March 5, 2012


For more than twelve years Dutch photographer Jeroen Toirkens (1971) has been following the changing lives of various nomadic tribes in Central Asia, Russia, Mongolia and the Arctic region. He called this unique project NomadsLife. Toirkens discovered that globalisation, poverty and climate change are making it increasingly difficult for them to maintain their traditional way of living. With NomadsLife Toirkens creates a diverse and often poignant picture of nomadism in the 21st century. His work has been awarded several times, like in January 2012, when Toirkens won the Canon Prize for Innovative Photojournalism.


In 1999 Toirkens became fascinated by the nomad families high in Turkey’s Bolkar Mountains and encountered the way of life of the Yörük, who were struggling with the pressures of a modernising Turkey. What were originally their nomadic pastures were being bought up by real estate developers, and many of the young people were departing for life in the cities. After that he visited other originally nomadic peoples who were encountering comparable problems. For instance, in 2005 and 2006 he and the journalist Jelle Brandt Corstius spent time with the Sámi and the Nenets in Russia. Before the Soviet era family units from these tribes were constantly on the move with their herds. Under the Soviet regime they were forced to become workers on collective farms, the kolchoses, a policy from which they are still suffering the consequences. Most recently Toirkens visited Barrow in Alaska, the centre for traditional whaling. There the nomadic life has already made way for a settled lifestyle.

NomadsLife makes the the last nomads ‘live’ forever; it gives them a face and a voice. A selection of NomadsLife is presented in the photobook Nomad (2011, publisher Lannoo).



Source: website Jeroen Toirkens
Photos: © Jeroen Toirkens
All images have been published with permission of the photographer.

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