Traversing a part of the ancient Silk Route, the Old Hindustan Tibet Road, high up in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh, is suffused with history.
Now known by a more perfunctory (and decidedly less nostalgic) title, National Highway 22, the road was first laid by the British in 1850s to connect India to Tibet for trade. It lies at around 12,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by a punishing landscape of mountains, gorges, and valleys, and making for some treacherous twists and turns that are often struck by landslides and avalanches.
But there’s also a delicate beauty to it, which British photographer Gareth Phillips sought out during a recent trip to Himachal Pradesh. This past week, he took over the Instagram account of the New Yorker magazine’s photo department with a series of arresting images of one of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Phillips wrote in his first post:
"As sporadic landslides destroy sections of the road, commuters are forced to take great risks to continue their journeys. As unfortunate drivers lose control and crash over the mountainous edges, the car wrecks are found and recycled. As road workers expose their bodies to the dusty sun-scorched elements, their toil secures a temporary flow of traffic and movement"
He noted that the result is a fascinating mix of fragility, destruction, renewal, and beauty.