Explore the unfamiliar
I was asked by VSCO’s editor Christina Rouse to share my trip to Mongolia, and how the experience changed the way I see the world. Below is an excerpt from the journal on VSCO website, which you can view in full here.
Where did you visit?
Ölgii is a city located in the extreme west of Mongolia. A predominantly Kazakh region, it is famous for nomadic eagle hunters who still maintain their old tradition of hunting with Golden Eagles trained from a young age. The chance to meet and spend time with them was definitely worth it despite the harsh winter climate.
What stood out to you while taking photos?
Our local fixer introduced us to the family of an eagle hunter, and there we met a young girl named Zamanbol who aspires to be the next eagle huntress. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of the famous Aisholpan, the first female hunter to compete in a male-dominated eagle festival in Ölgii. Maybe she was just shy in the presence of strangers, but she had a quiet demeanor. I could see a hint of sadness in her eyes. It made me wonder whether this was where she really wanted to be. On our last day with the eagle hunters, we had a chance to observe how a golden eagle was trained. That was the first time I saw Zamanbol’s genuine smile. I could finally see that she loved to be out there with her golden eagle.
How did this trip open your eyes to see the world differently?
It took me a while after the trip to change the way I see my images. But if there is one thing that affected my photography, it would be to capture images that show empathy towards the subjects, images that I can connect with on a personal level rather than something that just looks different.
In regards to challenging your creativity, what advice you would give to someone about to travel?
Lose your expectations. While doing research prior to a trip certainly helps, it may create unnecessary expectations and limit your creativity. This is because you might unknowingly try to copy similar images made by somebody else. Instead of going to the location with a big expectation that “I must get this shot,” just take it easy. Don’t rush to find the scene. Rather, enjoy the beautiful landscape, the people, the sight, and the sound. Observe your surroundings, and let the creativity slowly flow through you. You’re most creative when you are relaxed.
(The article was published in Feb 2019)