John Delaney Photography
                                                                 Artist Statement

In today’s growing global society the precious differences between our many world cultures are rapidly eroding away.  What do we all lose when an ancient culture disappears and centuries of tradition are abandoned and then forgotten? 

For me, photography has become a way to speak out against this passing. It is a way to record an existence that may soon vanish, to capture and celebrate what it is that makes a people unique, not just in appearance, but also in spirit.

The method and style of my photography is very traditional. My equipment has changed little in over a century. I travel with a large format wood view camera and a portable studio tent. My traveling studio not only controls the light but also serves as a common meeting ground in which my subjects present themselves. I give them little direction and I let serendipity rule the moment. The goal is to create a portrait that reveals something beneath the obvious: a sense of grace, nobility, or humanity. The photograph needs to be more than just an observation. It is my hope that the connection made between the subject and myself will be passed on to others through my work. My wish is to honor my subjects in a simple un-patronizing and respectful way. 

The images that are captured on film come to life for me in the darkroom. Irving Penn said, “A beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page”. I love to dig deep into a negative to create a print that is full of the light, textures, and depths of expression that I experienced in the field. The result should be an image that not only tells a story about its subject, but is also a beautiful object in itself.

Native Americans referred to photographers of the 19th century as “shadow catchers”, and feared that the camera would steal away their spirit. That, in fact, is exactly what I hope to do. Not only to capture light, but also the “essence” of the people I photograph. In this way maybe I can preserve more than just a moment before it fades away into time.
                                                - John Delaney

My love of photography began when I discovered Irving Penn's  Worlds in a Small Room.  Penn's work, as well that of Bruce Davidson, sparked my creative imagination.  I attended Rochester Institute of Technology where I was taught the science and history of photography.  But my real education began at the Richard Avedon Studio.  I started as his studio assistant then eventually became his master printer.  For 15 years I observed his passion, intelligence and meticulous craftmanship. 
    That relationship opened the door to working with my original heros, Irving Penn and  Bruce Davidson. Each of these masters informs and inspires my work. Mr. Penn for his wide range and love for the exquisite print; Davidson for the way he immerses himself in his subject, instilling trust; and Avedon with his intense preparation and skillfull  cajoling,  getting behind the "masks" of his subjects.

                                              Project Statement

                                              The Golden Eagle Nomads 
                     "Fine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakhs"
                                                                                      - Ancient Kazakh Proverb
Nobody knows exactly when the Kazakhs tamed the Golden Eagle of Central Asia.   
Herodotus refers to nomadic eagle hunters in 5th Century B.C.  Marco Polo wrote about the Kazakhs in his epic “Travels” account. The name “Kazakh” dates as far back as the 13th century, meaning “independent”, “free” and “nomadic”. These terms perfectly define this legendary people, so famous for their pride and skills on the battlefield. Genghis Khan is said to have had over 5000 "eagle riders" in his personal guard. We do know that since the 15th Century, nomadic Kazakh tribes on horseback, with eagles alert at their sides, have roamed freely across the borders of what is today Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Western Mongolia. 

Now at the dawn of the 21st Century, the nomadic way of life is fragile and in danger of being eradicated. History has long threatened these legendary horsemen. The Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin's purges and China's cultural revolution drove the roaming Kazakhs to the mountains and valleys of Mongolia, where they have found refuge and the freedom to live as they have for centuries. But even now in this remote area globalization and the encroachment of the West may irreversibly change the eagle riders' way of life.

Every year soon after the first snowfall these majestic men will head up into the mountains in search of prey.  They will lose their eagles on any unsuspecting fox, rabbit, and even wolf.  The Kazakhs capture their eagles while young, often directly from their cliff side nests. They take only the female, which are larger and more aggressive than the male. The eagles stay with the hunter for about seven years, during which time man and bird live in symbiosis, bound in survival. With a wingspan of over 7 feet and talons that can easily crush bone, these majestic predators make formidable allies. Today in the more isolated valleys of the Altai Mountains this hunt still provides needed food and furs for harsh Siberian winters. And it has now become an honorable tradition and a right of passage for the Kazakh men.

My personal project has been to document these vanishing nomads before they and their traditions are lost forever. I have had the opportunity to live with their families. To ride, hunt and eat and drink at their tables. And I will forever be changed by the experience. The Kazakh nomads of Mongolia have warmly welcomed me and I am honored to have observed and shared their way of life in such an intimate and personal manner. 
-John Delaney