Monday, June 14, 2021

World of the High-Altitude Gemstone Hunters of Karakorum

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Photographer Anna Huix beautifully captures these high-altitude gemstone hunters in Pakistan’s remote mountains of Karakoram. Originally from Barcelona, Anna Huix is a London-based photographer. I first came across her work at a folio show at creative agency Mother in London.

The series below is from a time she traveled with writer Simón Elias (also a mountain guide who specializes in remote places) to photograph the gemstone hunters.

Aquamarine gems on newspaper. Pakistan.
Aquamarine on newspaper. Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)

The story of how it all happened sounds like a nice twist of fate the way it all fell into place. Writer Simón missed a connecting flight in London to take him back to Bologna, Italy, where he was from.

He found himself in London for the very first time. At a bar, he was introduced to Anna and mentioned the gemstone hunter project, and he asked Anna if she wanted to go to Pakistan with him. She said: “No, I don’t want to go to Pakistan with a stranger.” He was leaving that afternoon and said: “Look, if you have this tiny bit of will to come to Pakistan, I’m going to change my flight and I’m going to tell you all about it.”

Miner Mohammed Ashraf in mine in Dassu, Pakistan.
Miner Mohammed Ashraf in a mine in Dassu, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)
Mines in Rondu District, Pakistan
Mines in Rondu District, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)

He left for Bologna, but as he left, he said: “I will see you there.” After a week, Anna booked her flight. They went and came back with this wonderful series of photos and an article written for the United Kingdom’s The Independent on Sunday.

They came back with this wonderful series of photos of the gemstone hunters

Media has been known to paint quite a horrible picture of Pakistan because of all the conflict. Anna found the people she came across very aware of how the world portrays them.

THEY WERE HAPPY TO HAVE THEIR PHOTO TAKEN TO SHOW THE WORLD ANOTHER SIDE THAT ISN’T ALL EXPLOSIONS AND TALIBAN

Miners Ibrahim Jalil and Gulam Nabi pose with a jackhammer in Hushe, Pakistan.
Miners Ibrahim Jalil and Gulam Nabi pose with a jackhammer in Hushe, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)

The people were warm and open, inviting the two photographers into their houses, and were said to have the most incredible sense of humor.

Karakoram National Park in Pakistan is home to the highest concentration of mountain peaks in the world

Karakoram National Park is home to the highest concentration of mountain peaks. The K2 is the second-highest peak in the world at 28,251 feet. It is on the border of China, India, and Pakistan.

Miner Mohammed Ashraf with his eight sons in Dassu, Pakistan.
Miner Mohammed Ashraf with his eight sons in Dassu, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)

The men have two months in summer to mine the gems, as the altitude at any other time of the year means the weather is too cold. They normally work in groups of nine, called a handual. There are three investors; one buys food, one buys a pneumatic drill, one buys explosives. None of the investors work, the rest are hard laborers, and if they find something, it is divided evenly between everyone. There are always exceptions though, and they did find a miner who painstakingly worked alone with his wife who kept him company.

So for this short period of time each year, these wonderfully spirited people, the gemstone hunters of Karakoram, risk their lives in the hope of finding a ruby, emerald, or aquamarine that could pull them out of poverty.

Gemstone Hunters of Pakistan: It’s in their blood

A lone hunter prepares to work on a cliff face in the mountains of Dassu.
A lone hunter prepares to work on a cliff face in the mountains of Dassu. (Image: Anna Huix)
Gemstone dealer Hagi Abbas in his house in Ned, Pakistan.
Gemstone dealer Hagi Abbas in his house in Ned, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)
Gemstone dealer Rozi Ali in his home in Skardu, Pakistan.
Gemstone dealer Rozi Ali in his home in Skardu, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)
Gemstone market in the road to Skardu.
Gemstone market on the road to Skardu. (Image: Anna Huix)
Miners Mohammed Yusuf and Zaman Dupta in Ned, Pakistan.
Miners Mohammed Yusuf and Zaman Dupta in Ned, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)
Gulam Nabi and his family in Hushe, Pakistan.
Gulam Nabi and his family in Hushe, Pakistan. (Image: Anna Huix)
The largest of the gemstones are sold to foreign museums.
The largest of the gemstones are sold to foreign museums. (Image: Anna Huix)
Miner Mohammed Ashraf works in the mine on the edge of one of Pakistan’s national parks.
Miner Mohammed Ashraf works in the mine on the edge of one of Pakistan’s national parks. (Image: Anna Huix)
Mohammed Isaac cooking at the  Shackla mine base camp.
Mohammed Isaac cooking at the Shackla mine base camp. (Image: Anna Huix)

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Jessica Kneipphttp://www.jessicakneipp.net
Jessica writes about films, and occasionally gets to direct them. Music, photography, art, poetry, reading and travel are pretty good too. She has a love of silent films, they are the closest she will ever get to "time travel."
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