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Photos and video of Mongolian nomads
September 20, 2011 9:50 AM   Subscribe

mongolia! This summer, a pair of teenage photographers visited Mongolia and took Polaroids of Mongolian nomads, for the nomads to keep. This video shows them with their snapshots.

They explain:


while researching mongolia prior to our trip, we found out that most of the natives love having photographs taken of themselves. most nomadic mongolians have never had a polaroid to keep of themselves before, so we decided to bring a bunch of polaroid film along on our motorcycles so each local we met along the way could have a picture to keep of him or herself!


More pictures at the photographers' website here.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike (25 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
On some websites where this has been linked, there seems to be the impression that Mongolians have never seen pictures of themselves before. Although this might be true of some of the small children, the photographers imply that this is not true in general.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:52 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros got a good licensing deal for that song and it's not just some record company making all the money.
posted by The World Famous at 9:57 AM on September 20, 2011


They don't own pictures of themselves. They might've gotten them taken and then kept by someone else.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2011


I want to echo Philosopher Dirtbike — let's not forget that Mongolia is an urbanized country with about 60% of people living in cities, and quite a few more coming into contact with city life every once in a while. Mongolia's cities are sizable, given the country's small overall population, and reasonably well-developed, with multistory buildings, car traffic, various amenities, commerce, business, universities, hotels, and so on. People there shop, watch TV, do typical urban things, and, yes, take photos of each other. Even out in the country, people will have modern tools, radios, clothing made from synthetic fibers, and so on. Yes, in some sense people who are far removed from cities will appreciate the gift of a photograph, because a camera is either not a necessity or out of their budget. But I can't help feeling that "natives" in this context is condescending and inappropriate. It almost makes it sound like the "natives" will go gaga over foreigners dispensing little artifacts from the civilized world.
posted by Nomyte at 10:22 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It almost makes it sound like the "natives" will go gaga over foreigners dispensing little artifacts from the civilized world.

When I posted this, I almost made a joke mocking this condescension ("They think their souls are being stolen!") but I wasn't sure people would be able to tell the difference between me mocking Mongolians and me mocking condescending Westerners...

At any rate, Polaroids are pretty cool, and becoming more and more rare. I remember as a kid thinking how cool the pics looked as they developed. Even if I had seen lots of photographs, I think I'd be pleasantly surprised by the Polaroid if I'd never seen one before.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:46 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cool pictures. I don't think I have a polaroid of myself or anyone in my family. It's not that odd :P

Also, who are these teens who motorcycle around Mongolia? They must be some kind of TV teens. No jobs, lots of money and opportunity. Where do I sign up?
posted by hot_monster at 11:08 AM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wish someone would go to NYC and take Polaroids of the natives.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:35 AM on September 20, 2011


Oh and they didn't take Polaroids--they used an Instax camera by Fuji--and I'll bet that's who sponsored the trip.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:37 AM on September 20, 2011


Ideefixe, thanks for the clarification, I was looking for the camera they used. But I don't think they were sponsored, necessarily. Their website aesthetic fits the video clip, so I think they're not scrounging for trip money (but I could be wrong).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:41 AM on September 20, 2011


It's cool that they give them the pictures. If they don't typically have cameras on the steppe it's a clever gift to make.

Fun Fact: Mongolia is the only country in the Asian continental interior rated "free" by Freedom House. It is also the least densely populated independent country in the world.
posted by Winnemac at 11:43 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I couldn't ever consciously concoct music more wildly inappropriate for the Mongolian planes.

But these people in the video clearly enjoyed their photographs of themselves whatever the circumstances, so I'm not feeling the need for the Great White Hate.
posted by cmoj at 11:43 AM on September 20, 2011


When they say 'we got an amazing opportunity to go on a ten-day motorcycle trip", I'd guess they were guests. I'm surprised at how often Polaroid is used to mean "instant camera", so maybe they weren't sponsored by Fuji.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:48 AM on September 20, 2011


YEARS AGO, when sex became well less constrained, and sexual liberation initiated a swinging life style, Polaroid, to cash in on the need for folks to exchange suggestive pictures of themselves marketed a Polaroid camera they called The Swinger.

Get those photos pronto. Just in case we discover oil there.
posted by Postroad at 12:21 PM on September 20, 2011


Mongolia by Horseback
posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on September 20, 2011


I was working in the box office of a university theatre about twenty years ago when this dude came in with a Polaroid camera. He was a familiar face around the theatre. Always wore the same outfit, every single day.

Anyhow, while we're talking, he takes a photo of me all of a sudden. The flash startled me and I paused mid-sentence. He apologized and said he didn't quite know how to use the camera, so we kept talking. He took five or six more sudden photos of me, all while I was talking, catching me by surprise about half the time. The couple of times I noticed he was about to take a photo, I tried to smile, but he complained that my smiles look insincere. Well, he was right about that.

He gave me about half of the photos - I looked especially awkward. He also took one of the photos, punched a hole in the corner, ran some string through the hole and hung it around his neck. For the next two or three months, every time I saw him around campus, he was wearing my picture but he showed no signs of recognizing me or remembering who I was.

So, yeah.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:02 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ideefixe, Polaroid sells Instax cameras under their own name. So it might have really been a "Polaroid" camera.
posted by zsazsa at 1:10 PM on September 20, 2011


They were also sporting a Canon 5D Mk II so seems a bit unlikely they were sponsored by Fuji.
posted by zeoslap at 1:45 PM on September 20, 2011


Also their domain is registered to a $2.3M home in Florida so yeah not hurting for cash or in need of sponsorship :)
posted by zeoslap at 1:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've found that most people - developed and developing countries - are grateful when you give them an actual printed picture. Practically everyone has a digital or phone camera, but they hardly ever make prints. Its a shame. Especially grateful are people in developing countries for whom getting a photograph made is a luxury they can't afford and who may not have any other picture of themselves than a grim-faced ID photo and maybe a wedding or graduation shot.

You don't need a polaroid to do it. There are 1 hour photo shops that will turn digital into (usually terrible quality but so what) prints for pennies just about everywhere so you can easily bring those colorful fish market vendors that you pass on the way to the hotel in everyday a couple of prints of them clowning around and make their day. And then everyone wants you to take their picture and have some Raki and try my grilled fish and lets take a picture together and have some more raki and its a social experience rather than a voyeuristic tourist one. At least thats how it went for me in Istanbul. YMMV.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 3:17 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


RandlePatrickMcMurphy: I've found that most people - developed and developing countries - are grateful when you give them an actual printed picture. Practically everyone has a digital or phone camera, but they hardly ever make prints.

This is true, and an interesting idea. Some times I feel like Smaug, on my mound of hoarded gems, photos of interesting and appealing things, kept to myself. And now I have a new reason to take pictures of people - to give them their pictures back.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:20 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Something that a lot of linguists and anthropologists do now in remote fieldwork locales is to take a few cheap cameras with them, distribute them to the locals and get the LOCALS to take photos. Of themselves, each other, the town, whatever. Teenagers especially love this. Some people I know have done this with flip video cameras, even. Then you develop the pictures for them, give them back, and record them taking with you about why they took the shots they did, who is in the pictures, and what the photos mean to them. You (the researcher) get good conversational data, the local person gets photos or DVDs to keep, and learns how to use technology. Depending on who paid for the equipment and whether it needs to be used elsewhere, some people are able to leave the cameras in the community. I know of a couple of cases where researchers have come back a couple of years later to find one or more teenagers have got really into photography or video making, and have produced some great stuff.
posted by lollusc at 4:41 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


lollusc, this is what one of my anthro professors did in the Philippines. Very fascinating research!
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:27 PM on September 20, 2011


...distribute them to the locals and get the LOCALS to take photos.

I did this while working in rural Brazil, and recommend it if you are in a trusted group (this was a digital camera). By giving my camera to the kids (10-14 year old girls, small village with good connections to our group), we - me and them and their community - got some absolutely stunning shots that I would never have been able to take myself. OK, they are not professionals, but the subjects of the pictures were comfortable and candid among each other in a way they never would have been with me.
posted by whatzit at 3:20 AM on September 21, 2011


Is it me or does she kind of pet the kid at the end? Seems a little demeaning.
posted by martin10bones at 11:55 AM on September 21, 2011


The Urban Clan of Genghis Khan: An influx of nomads has turned the Mongolian capital upside down.
posted by homunculus at 12:16 PM on September 21, 2011


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