“In February 2009 I took the trans-Manchurian express on a two day train journey from Beijing to the Russian border. My destination was a small mining town called Zhalai Nuer in Inner Mongolia. The town was still in the grip of a harsh Siberian winter that made it feel like I had come to the end of the world.
The area is rich in coal and the town’s main landmark is its massive open cast coalmine, called Lutien mine. Around forty old fashioned steam trains were working there day and night, hauling coal from the pit. The mine had become a mecca for railway enthusiasts from all over the world: Australia, South Africa, Germany, Britain and America. But by spring of the following year the trains would all be scrapped, passed over as inefficient and costly. “It’s the last great steam show left on earth” one of them told me mournfully.
The remoteness of Zhalai Nuer and its proximity to Mongolia and Russia fascinated me. Was this the last place in this part of China where people could be truly called Chinese before they started to become another nationality?” (Oliver Woods; read more)
LIFE Behind the Picture: The Photo That Changed the Face of AIDS
“In November 1990 LIFE magazine published a photograph of a young man named David Kirby — his body wasted by AIDS, his gaze locked on something beyond this world — surrounded by anguished family members as he took his last breaths. The haunting image of Kirby on his death bed, taken by a journalism student named Therese Frare, quickly became the one photograph most powerfully identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen millions of people infected (many of them unknowingly) around the globe.”
DAVIDE MONTELEONE - Dagestan, 2010
In his latest book, ‘Red Thistle,’ photographer Davide Monteleone documents the rhythm of life in the Caucasus.
“A common theme, predictably, is death, which is so insistent that it approaches a dulled ubiquity. If there is a kind of music to life in the Caucasus, mortality is its drumbeat in Monteleone’s work. In one frame, a woman in a black headscarf hurries along the sidewalk, not seeming to notice a stream of blood flowing toward her from a bull that was slaughtered in the street. There are weddings and funerals, and both seem to occasion equal measures of melancholy and warmth…”
This is where I’m from. I was born in the republic of Kabardino-Balkariya, in the town of Nalchik. All I have are a handful of very lucid, beautiful memories of the mountains, going to the lake, getting lost in a sunflower field, the smell of the cupboard of homemade preserves. Turmoil and war have overtaken this area now. Maybe one day I will have the chance to go back.