circle conversations │ d. delgerjargal

Davaanyam Delgerjargal is a Mongolian photographer based in Ulaanbaatar. He took thousands of beautiful pictures for our brand. He is the founder of the photo agency, Noise Art Media, and the Batzorig Foundation which trains and supports young photographers in Mongolia.

@davaayamdelgerjargal @noiseartmedia | FB: Noise Art Media

Davaanyam in Khovd Aimag.

How did you find your passion for photography?

I started taking photos with black and white film when I was 16, but I dreamed of becoming a construction engineer. Somehow fate made me into a photographer. I do not regret it at all. It is a bliss to do something that one truly loves. I graduated from university in 2009 with a degree in cinematography and television.

I take documentary photographs. I like to capture everyday life, portraits and stories of people. I have been working as a photography teacher at the school since 2011. In 2013 I set up an organisation called Batzorig Foundation to help develop documentary photography in Mongolia. We organise a photography exhibition called New Creatives every year. This exhibition aims to support young photographers. In August 2021, I set up a Noise Art Media photo agency together with some of my students and also some participants of the New Creatives exhibitions.

Please share with us your approach to photography

The beauty of photography comes from feeling peoples’ lives more than they do. Sometimes it is more enjoyable to chat than taking photos. I prefer to take a few quality and precious shots with a meaningful understanding of the story, than to take tons of images with not much substance.

Davaanyam in Khovd Aimag, shooting Mongolian landscapes.

What has influenced you in your photography

The saddest moment in my life was when my father passed away in 2020. From that moment I had to reflect about life a lot.

That is when I started traveling alone in the vast valleys and mountains of Mongolia for 7-14 days at a time, taking photos. It is a great pleasure for me to sit on a long-distance country bus for 36 hours, covering 1,400 km, looking out of the window and thinking about the past and the future. I meet dozens of interesting people and families on my trips, which is important and interesting for me and my work. One of the outcomes of these trips is a project called “Fewer than few”, featuring the diverse population of Mongolia - culture and people of different ethnic groups - through my images. This project might take 5 years, maybe 10 or even 20 years.

How is it to be a photographer in Mongolia?

Today's society in Mongolia is very interesting, especially the ger districts. Photographing everyday life in the ger districts is fascinating, and also close to me, because I was born and raised in the neighbourhood. One of the projects I did was a photo exhibition called “Ulaanbaatar’s smoke and wood theft”. It was a project showcasing how people from the ger districts had no choice but to cut down trees in nearby mountains illegally, to keep themselves warm and also sell firewood to make their living.

Another photo project that was born from the ger district visits was an exhibition showing pictures taken 18 years ago, compared with pictures taken nowadays - how some people in the ger districts are making their streets greener, improving their homes, while others, the less hard working ones, are just stagnating with run down homes and dirty streets. It showed how many schools and buildings are being built there - showing that the ger district is becoming an official district of its own. It also showed how 18 years ago there was much less pollution, and the ger district was very small, whereas nowadays the ger district has grown a lot. This exhibition showed both good and bad in an equal way.

Western Mongolia nomad shot by Davaanyam.

You took beautiful pictures of our nomads. What do you think is the best and also the toughest thing about being a nomad?

Feeling the freedom and space of the land, seeing livestock flourish, and living at one with nature, through the heat and cold of the seasons — that must be the best thing about being a nomad in Mongolia. I find it challenging to preserve our nomadic culture and traditions for generations to come while also embracing modern developments.

What does sustainability mean to you?

For me, it means the perfect balance in all areas: work, life, climate, society, environment — right down to the smallest stone.

Mongolian landscapes shot by Davaanyam.

Please share with us your latest news

As I mentioned before, when I first learned photography, I learned to take photos in a dark room with black and white film. This year I created a photo lab for myself, processing only black and white film. While everyone else is flocking to digital, I'm going back to film. An interesting fact to mention is that this is the only film processing laboratory in Mongolia at the moment. It's kind of cool that all the film and paper toners I am working with are 25-35 years old and have long expired. Images taken on film have so much more depth in them.

Mongolian landscapes shot by Davaanyam.

What is most precious to you?

My parents.

What does beauty mean to you?

Four seasons of Mongolia.

What does land mean to you?

To me, land represents freedom and a country’s independence.

What does the colour blue represent for you?