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Photographer Erdene Zagdsuren became interested in drawing and painting as a child in Ulanbaatar, Mongolia. From 1982 to 1986, he studied at the Photographic and Arts Academy of Mongolia, majoring in painting and photography in order to follow his dreams.
Zagdsuren started his first job at a black and white photo lab belonging to Mongolia's Mon-Tsame state-run national photo agency. He gained valuable experience from older photographers who taught him how to foster artistic thinking, inspire creativity, and develop his technical skills. From that time on, Zagdsuren began going to the Mongolian countryside in order to reach the soul of his nation's countryside life and discover the natural beauty of Mongolia through photographs. Most importantly, Zagdsuren began to realize that he gained freedom by doing these things.
This coincided with Mongolia’s transition to democracy in the early 90's, and much of his work at this time went towards creating what became the 15th year anniversary museum of the democratic revolution.
From 2001 Zagdsuren began working outside of government sponsored projects as a designer for the Gamma Photo Agency, the first private photo agency in Mongolia. He has remained with Gamma since then and has participated in every major Mongolian photography exhibition as well as helping to organize many of them.
In 2005, Zagdsuren participated in the establishment of the United Association of Mongolian Photographers and its first exhibition featured his work.
In 2007, Zagdsuren released his first solo photo-book, titled “Khuvsgul” (Mongolia's Biggest Lake), and also had his work featured in many albums, journals, calendars and more.
Zagdsuren's biggest influence is Henri Cartier-Bresson who he considers the greatest photographer of all time. Zagdsuren says:
"Cartier-Bresson said 'I think everyman is an artist by heart.' His words are very close to me. Not only as a precise note of a great man, but also as a call for me to practice my art more. In my work, I try to show the life of my people in its joy and sadness, grief and happiness. I also try to reflect different sides of life, such as urban and rural life, and to see my own life's corner with artistic, human eyes. I want my work to be seen by you and reach your soul.”
You can see a collection of Zagdsuren's amazing photos as well as loads of Mongolian folk music, crafts, film and food at Yutintang. Check it out: http://www.shanghai247.net/music/event/mongol-arts-and-culture-festival-yuyintang
WORDS: BRIAN OFFENTHER
PICTURES: ERDENE ZAGDSUREN