Yurts, hunters and trucks stuck in frozen lakes: Photographer spends 17 years capturing life in Mongolia – and the results are jaw-dropping
- Frederic Lagrange became interested in Mongolia after being told stories about the country by his granddad
- He first visited in 2001 and for 17 years he has travelled back and forth to document its people and landscapes
- The photographer’s series of jaw-dropping landscapes and portraits has now been published in a new book
A photographer has spent 17 years travelling across Mongolia capturing everyday life in the country – and the results are incredible.
Frederic Lagrange, who is French but now lives in New York, first visited in 2001 after being mesmerised by stories of Mongolia told by his grandfather.
He took hundreds of pictures and whittled the finest shots from his vast collection into a stunning coffee table book simply called – Mongolia.
A Kazakh eagle hunter in full attire with fox skins from his past hunts and wearing traditional colourful patterned Kazakh trousers
Khövsgöl Lake freezes over each winter, and to save time, many people just drive over it. However, on one occasion in February 2005 warmer conditions had made the ice weak and it collapsed when a truck drove over. Pictured is the rescue truck that came to free it. Frédéric says it shows the resilience and determination of the Mongol people
Two men Frédéric discovered lying drunk on Lake Khövsgöl in the country’s far north. He said that despite it being early in the morning, they had been drinking cheap vodka. This is his favourite shot
A picture of Khurlee, a driver, walking on the thick, solid ice of frozen Tolbo Lake in Western Mongolia. Frédéric shot this image one April at the beginning of Spring, one of the deadliest seasons in Mongolia because temperatures can shift from warm to freezing in just a few hours. It’s not unknown for herders to perish after leaving in the morning wearing clothing that’s too light
A driver runs away from his truck after it cracks the ice and begins to submerge on a semi-frozen Lake Khövsgöl in northern Mongolia
A stunning aerial picture of the city of Khovd, which has been completely covered in snow and ice
Frederic’s grandfather fought for the French army during the Second World War and was taken prisoner by the Germans – then rescued by Mongolian soldiers.
The photographer told MailOnline Travel: ‘He spoke of how he had been rescued in late 1944 by a detachment of Mongol soldiers who were fighting under Soviet command.
‘I remember the excitement in his voice as he explained how he and other British and American prisoners in the camp had been rescued by these massive men from a foreign land.
‘Since then Mongolia has always been on my mind. Those men saved my grandfather’s life – and ultimately mine as well.
‘Many years later, in 2001, I saved enough money from my job as a photo assistant, took a month off, and traveled to Mongolia.
‘I spent the majority of that month shooting in the West, attracted by the unspoiled beauty and endless landscapes.
A family in Mongolia with all of their belongings packed on to the back of a truck as they begin the 125-mile journey north to their winter camp. The cattle follow behind, led by elders. It takes this group over a week to walk to their destination
A local herder holds up a sheep he is about to shear on the banks of Uureg Nuur Lake, left. Pictured right is a father and his child inside their yurt
When Frédéric was stranded in a snow storm in western Mongolia he took refuge inside a yurt. There he was offered tea, cheese and other sweet delicacies
Two Mongolian women share a snack inside a yurt. Frederic, who is French but now lives in New York, first visited Mongolia in 2001 after being mesmerised by stories of the country told by his grandfather
Wrestlers training for the Nadam festival in Ulaan Baatar (left). Pictured right is one of the first people that Frederic made friends with on his visit. He’s smoking a cigarette made from an old newspaper
‘When I returned to New York City, I looked at a map of Mongolia and fully grasped just how little ground I had managed to cover during that initial trip.
‘I felt a strong urge to see more: the Gobi desert in the South, the eagle hunters in the West, the Tsaatan reindeer herders in the Northern Taiga, and so much more.’
Frederic acted on his urge and has now made several trips to Mongolia to document even more of its landscape and people.
His pictures are a mixture of portraits and dramatic scenery images.
His favourite image is of two men lying on a frozen lake. He said: ‘I like the “Two Men on Ice” picture I shot on the frozen lake Khövsgöl. I also like some of the portraits I shot against white-and-black backgrounds.
‘Those are very straight-forward portraits, but the process of shooting portraits of people who had never had a camera pointed at them was very interesting and very raw. There was no pretense and that made the whole process very unique.’
A Mongol herder drinks a cup of mare milk tea, left. Pictured right is a young boy posing for the camera at a railway station
Rural workers in Mongolia get to work building a yurt. Frederic’s pictures are a mixture of portraits and dramatic landscapes
A woman on horseback brings a horse back to camp in the Orkhon Valley, Central Mongolia, left. Pictured right, another horse herder in one of Frédéric’s favourite parts of Western Mongolia, Üüreg Lake
A group of hunters, on horseback, ride across the snowy landscape, hoping to catch eagles, in what is a 5,000-year-old tradition. Most of central Asia freezes over in the winter
Two girls play on a motorbike near Ureeg Nuur Lake in western Mongolia. Frédéric says the locals here are ‘very friendly’
Frédéric says that most people in the Mongolian countryside live in traditional Mongol yurts. In towns and cities, they live in Soviet-era buildings
Frederic said that many of the Mongol people were curious about why he wanted to photograph them.
And now he has struck up a special bond with many of them.
He added: ‘Mongols are very hospitable by nature, as the country is so vast and isolated, people have to take care of each other in order to survive in the countryside during winter especially.
Frédéric says that one of the most scenic and serene places in Western Mongolia is the beautiful Tolbo Lake, pictured, in the Bayan Ölgii Province
Another scenic shot of Lake Tolbo. Frédéric said: ‘I remember just seating down, lost in thoughts, gazing into the landscape, surrounded by complete silence but for the sound of the soft flapping wings of swans in the distance, migrating to warmer lands’
Camels graze in the vast landscape near Üüreg Lake in western Mongolia
A horse stands on the shores of Uureg Nuur Lake in western Mongolia. Frederic’s photo series of Mongolia has now been published in a new book, which costs $265
‘Their behavior and hospitality is not limited to Mongols only, but also to anyone they cross paths with, including foreigners.
‘They are all very proud of their country and to be Mongols, so to see a book of this scale coming out, about Mongolia, they are very happy.’
But despite the book of images being completed, Frederic plans to return to Mongolia to snap even more images.
We look forward to Mongolia 2.
- Mongolia by Frederic Lagrange costs $265/£207. For more information about it and to order click here.
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