Inland Empire - Mongolia
A cowboy in the central Mongolian countryside.
Photographer's Note: My crew and I stumbled across this gentleman sitting near an oboo, or sacred Buddhist mound, where people go for prayer. He had been traveling a long distance.From the article
In Ulaanbaatar, a woman in traditional Mongolian dress at a beauty pageant.
Photographer's Note: I think this woman is Miss Mongolia. This is a classic white background studio shot. Of course, she's beautiful, but I think it's the wedding dress that fills the frame in an extra special way.From the article
The Orhon River, near Kharkorin, in central Mongolia.
Photographer's Note: This is a very typical Mongolian landscape. I took the shot in the late afternoon as the sun was going down. Here, the light softly disappears and sunsets last forever. It's pretty incredible.From the article
A herdsman and his camels at the edge of the Gobi Desert.
Photographer's Note: I was with my driver, assistant and guide when we met this guy who was crossing part of the Gobi and had stopped with his cattle at a well. He was so laid back. All I had to do was make eye contact and he let me take his picture. What I like about this photo is that it could have been taken any time over the past century.From the article
The Choijin Lama Monastery in Ulaanbaatar.
Photographer's Note: I just love the ambient light in this photo. We took it around midnight, and it required a really long exposure to fully capture the light in the left-hand window and the moonlight. The side story here is the monastery had just closed. When the night guard saw us outside, we saw him reach for and load his gun. My assistant was pretty scared, but in the end we all had a good laugh when we realized that he did this every night, and that he didn't intend to come after us.From the article
The interior of the State Opera and Ballet Theater on Ulaanbaatar's Sukhbaatar Square.
Photographer's Note: In ex-Soviet countries you have to go through a lot of red tape and people to get permission to enter special buildings at off-hours. This was the case here at this theater, which was built by the Germans in the 1950s. They allowed us an hour and a half to shoot. The dancers in the distance are rehearsing for Swan Lake.From the article
A girl in her school uniform, in Mandalgov, in the Gobi.
Photographer's Note: I carry a white back drop with me wherever I go, so I can create an impromptu photo and take shots like these. This photo was taken outside the girl's house. We were impressed that she could withstand the already freezing weather without a coat. Clearly, she's hearty and used to the cold!From the article
Soviet-style architecture on Sukhbaatar Square.
Photographer's Note: I was attracted to this shot because you can see the many levels of modern Mongolia--ever-present soldiers, stern Soviet architecture, and a billboard ad for cell phones featuring a famous Mongolian Sumo wrestler.From the article
A young boy in Tsengel, near Ulaanbaatar.
Photographer's Note: At first this boy was pretty shy, so quiet and introverted. I tried to capture his slow cautious movements on film. In general, Mongolians do not smile for the camera. For the most part, they're proud warriors, except of course when they're relaxing with family and friends. The smiles come out after a few drinks.From the article
A ger camp outside Kharkorin.
Photographer's Note: I love this shot. It was taken under full moon with a one-hour exposure. We were in the middle of nowhere, yet these people still had a battery-powered TV satellite dish. Television is changing the countryside little by little. People don't socialize as much as they did even six years ago. Instead, they stay indoors and watch 30-year-old footage of traditional Mongolian music and sporting events.From the article
Wrestlers train at a gym in Ulaanbaatar.
Photographer's Note: This photo was taken in a gym at one of the most prestigious schools in Mongolia in the late afternoon, when there was pretty strong light. I could tell these guys were showing off a little for the camera, which is natural. They seemed to be wrestling just a little harder than usual.From the article
A cowboy in Kharkorin.
Photographer's Note: I really liked this kid. He was lively and more open than a lot of people we met. Look closely and you'll notice his sleeves--they're about 10 inches longer than normal so that he can keep his hands warm. Most Mongolians wear similar coats in winter. They don't use gloves.From the article
A mother and daughter at home, north of Kharkorin.
Photographer's Note: This mother and daughter were good family friends of my driver. The photo was taken in their city home, a typical modest house made from brick and wood. The Chinese poster in the background is telling. The West's influence there is huge there.From the article
The Trans-Siberian Express at Zamyn-Üüd, a town in southeastern Mongolia.
Photographer's Note: You can really feel the energy change at this border town where Mongol officers "stamp you out of the country" before you head to the no-man's land between Mongolia and China.From the article
A monk in a ger temple. Ulaanbaatar.
Photographer's Note: I met this Buddhist monk at a make-shift monastery in the poorest part of town, called the Ger district. He's raising money to build a real temple and had been reading scripture just before I took this photo. There's something really warm and beautiful about him--qualities that were in total contrast to what was happening outside.From the article
The central Mongolian landscape.
Photographer's Note: When you're in the middle of these vast expanses, you really feel the here and now of the place. You're there and nowhere else, if that makes sense. I decided to photograph this landscape at around 5pm, a time of day when everything seems to slow down.From the article
Young Mongol wrestlers traning in Ulann Baatar for Naadam, the national Mongol holiday during which the best archers, horseback riders, and wrestlers compete and show-off their skills.From the article
A painting at the Presidential Palace depicting a hunting scene during Ghengis Khan's reign.
Photographer's Note: This was yet another place where we had to bribe people to get in and take photos. I think it was money well spent.From the article
Standing Buddha at the Ganan Khiid monastey in Ulaan Baatar.
Photographer's Note: My guide and I were allowed to go on the first floor of the Temple. Usually, no one is permitted there, but we were able to take pictures of those who came to worship Buddha on a special day of celebration. The visual interest here besides the cultural depth was the contrast between the massive size of the Buddha's feet and the human beings.From the article
Souvenir stand outside of the monastery in Kharkhorin.
Photographer's Note: The stand was full of artifacts for sale, most of them fake and a few genuine. The many owners were lingering in the sun waiting for customers who never never showed up. If they were to sell a couple of items a week, they were happy.From the article
Ferris wheel in the theme park in Ulaan Baatar.
Photographer's Note: The ferris wheel was donated by the Russians a few decades ago, when Mongolia was still under Soviet rule. It stands there, rusted, as a trace of the not-so-distant past. Looking at it, it's easy to feel the sad and derelict era.From the article
Contortionists at the State Circus, Ulaan Baatar.
Photographer's Note: Mongol circus athletes are some of the most prestigious and recognized around the world. At a very young age, students go through extremely intense training.From the article
Young Dombra (two-stringed lute) player at the youth center in Ulaan Baatar.
Photographer's Note: Despite the many Western waves of fashion and technology that have hit remote Mongolia with some delay since it became independant at the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1989, traditional ways of life in sports and culture are still very popular among young Mongols, and a source of pride.From the article