North India’s Manali-Leh highway extends for a distance of nearly 480 kilometres. At an altitude of several thousand metres, landslides and accidents make the sometimes single lane road one of the most dangerous in the world. Thomas Keydel spent a number of weeks there, living among the lorry drivers, road workers and nomads.
The highway between the north-indian cities of Manali and Leh is well named: it starts in at 2000 metres in altitude and then twists and turns its way up to a height of 5000 metres before descending to 3500 metres through the city of Leh. Motorised vehicles require a number of days to cover the distance. During the winter months the highway is closed, and in spring several weeks are necessary before the road is in a drivable condition. Road workers risk their lives widening the narrow road, clearing rubble, and preparing the surface for summer traffic. Lorry drivers take long breaks as their progress is frequently blocked for several hours. Nomads with herds of sheep and goats also travel along the Manali-Leh highway, where there are few villages. Cutting winds and frosty temperatures push people to the limits of their endurance – but those living here have become accustomed to the tough and adverse conditions.
It was no small task to capture this region with a comprehensive set of images. The German photographer, Thomas Keydel, rose to the challenge. After taking pictures in Borneo, Israel and other parts of the Indian subcontinent, Keydel spent more than seven weeks in the Himalayas documenting life along the highway. To complete the project, he drove the whole distance twice on a motorbike and once as a passenger in a lorry. In addition to numerous photos, he has also produced a video of everyday life in the Himalayas with his M240, which we show here.
You can read the complete interview with Thomas Keydel and his best images in LFI 2.2019. More
The photographer’s pictures reflect his experiences when travelling in India, Borneo,
Israel and the United States. In fact, it was travelling that led Keydel to photography, and he studied photojournalism in Hanover from 2011 to 2017. To date, his pictures have been published in magazines such as Der Spiegel, Vinum and Go. Keydel works as a free-lance photographer in Frankfurt am Main. More