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Yes, the Aral Sea does actually exist! Aïnour (Moonbeam in Kazakh) is a young woman who was part of a group of youngsters whose teacher took them on an excursion to find the Aral Sea, close to twenty years ago. Once, the Aral Sea was one of the largest landlocked bodies of water on the planet; however, it is drying out, which has led to progressive shrinking. Today, it has been broken down into a number of smaller partial lakes.

In 2003, Claudine Doury accompanied a group of around 20 students on an outing. The photographer had met their teacher, Dschanat Djaparowna, earlier on during her trip through Kazakhstan; and the teacher had explained how she had to prove time and again to her students that the Aral Sea does actually exist. Doury remembers: “The youngsters in the small town of Aralsk didn't believe their teacher when she spoke about her childhood, and about how the sea bordered the town, and that she would swim in its waters after school.” By 2003, the sea had withdrawn so far that the youngsters had never seen even a trace of the water. “As a result, Dschanat decided to take her students, every year, so that they could see – or, better said, find – the sea, which is now over 100 kilometres from the town, lost in the middle of the steppe. This was how the young woman, Aïnour, discovered the sea for the first time.” The photographer captured the moment in a picture: “It's a sea that you don't see coming – with no sound or traces of humanity. It's only the smell of salt that points to it being there. The youngsters threw themselves into the water, and Aïnour decided to write a poem about the rediscovered sea.”

Doury and her Leica took countless pictures of the youngsters on that special day. “Always working with discreet Leica M cameras allows me to concentrate on the encounters – to be more present with the situations and the people I meet during my work,” the photographer explains. (Ulrich Rüter)

Image: © Claudine Doury

Equipment: Leica M6 with Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH.

Issue 8/2022 of the LFI magazine carries a comprehensive portfolio.

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