These photographs are part of a documentary project begun in 2007, and represent aspects of life in modern Mongolia, specifically its capital, Ulaanbatar. Mongolia has a unique and storied history, most recently marked by its transition from communism to democracy following the fall of the Soviet Union.
Mongolia’s transition was guided by international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Band, and the Asian Development Fund, but the nation’s swift entry into a purely market economy has brought many challenges for its citizens. Since the 1990s literacy rates have fallen and nearly a third of citizens live below the poverty line. Many services and infrastructure provided for Mongolians under communist rule were unsupported in a capitalist setting, causing great disruption for many of the nation’s three million people.
Nevertheless, economists and organizations such Citigroup view and label the country as a “global growth generating” nation and tout the nation’s business-friendly environment for outside investors. Accordingly, Mongolia offers a prescient look at the disconnect between prescriptive policies and the cultural and political realities that limit their success.
My images seek to capture these tensions, while at the same time drawing attention to the rich and thriving culture that animates this young Asian nation. As an outsider, I aimed to photograph places of interaction, crossroads in the city, and individuals at work at a key period in the nation’s history, rather than attempt to relay comprehensive narrative.