For some time I have been collecting early photographic images of Central Asia. They are not easy to come by, not least because few people travelled in these remote regions and even fewer of them carried cameras. However, this week I was fortunate enough to obtain a stunning set of 86 magic lantern slides that illustrate a hunting trip through Central Asia and which date from about 1900.
For those of you who do not know, the magic lantern was a precursor to the slide projector. A very thin photographic ‘positive’ measuring 3.25 inches x 3.25 inches was sandwiched between two sheets of glass and bound at the edges with tape. It was a primitive system, but often the quality of the photographs, mostly taken with plate cameras, was superb.
From what I can work out from the captions attached to each slide, the expedition leader – who I have not yet identified – set off from Srinagar in Kashmir, northern India, before heading north to Gilgit and Hunza. From there he crossed the Pamirs and then travelled on to Kashgar in modern-day Xinjiang. From there he headed to Aksu and then into the Tekkes Valley in the Tian Shan Mountains to hunt. He then made his way via the border crossing at Chuguchak (now Tacheng) into what was then Russian-controlled Turkestan, but which is now in modern-day eastern Kazakhstan. He passed through Sergiopol (now Ayaguz) before heading north into Siberia. By any account, this was a remarkable journey that required great stamina and determination.
Throughout this journey our traveller was hunting. The slides include his trophies, including ibex, Marco Polo sheep, roedeer, huge Asiatic wapiti or maral (red deer) and, sadly, snow leopards. One of the slides says that his Ovis littledalei had horns that measured 57.5 inches across, which he says was a record. But the real question is who is this person. Can you help? I know that it is not Captain HHP Deasy, who published In Tibet and Chinese Turkestan in 1901. Nor does it appear to be Percy Church, whose In Chinese Turkestan with Caravan and Rifle was published the same year, even though the route was very similar, as were the hunting trophies. However, I am reasonably sure that he is English.
So here are some pictures of the hunter. If you can help to identify him, please let me know. He is shown here with some of his hunting trophies.
As you can see, his features are very clear. Please get in touch if you can put a name to the face.