Profile: The Vanishing Cultures Project

Last spring I was lucky enough to meet two enterprising young journalists in a cafe in Ulaanbaatar. Nina Wegner and Taylor Weidman were new to Mongolia and were going to spend the next six months researching, interviewing and photographing for a book about how Mongolian herding lifestyle is changing. It was their second book for their non-profit journalism organization, the Vanishing Cultures Project.

Meeting Nina and Taylor was kismet. So much of what drove them to start the Vanishing Cultures Project (long-form journalism, desire to cover people that are often overlooked, passion for international coverage and travel) is what led me to Mongolia.

Nina and Taylor started VCP while working in Nepal. Originally there for on a Fulbright Fellowship, Taylor and Nina soon discovered a remote tribe in the Himalayas whose customs had seen little change for the past century or so. They were granted exceptional access to this community, and their work turned into a beautiful and informative coffee table book (with a forward from the Dalai Lama!). They decided to donate the proceeds from this book back to cultural initiatives to support the Mustang people.

With the success of their Nepal project, they decided to continue working with this model. They are now spending a significant amount of time in a location – up to six months – and documenting a culture undergoing rapid change through writing and photography.

The endeavor is a rare and worthwhile one, and something I wish I’d thought of myself. But I didn’t, so I decided to do the next best thing.

I befriended Nina and Taylor and enthusiastically accompanied them on a couple trips to the Mongolian countryside. We exchanged contacts, research, skills, and more importantly, words of encouragement as we all struggled to cover a country we were still trying to figure out.

Here is a short promotional video I produced for the Vanishing Cultures Project. If you like the organization please support them by buying one of their gorgeous books or fabulous prints or simply by donating.

Watch More Videos from my collaboration with the Vanishing Cultures Project:

Khovsgol Province: Herding Life

Khovsgol Province: Shamanism

Happy Naadam: Wrestling

Happy Naadam: Horse Racing

Happy Naadam: Archery & Shagai

Countryside Stories, Part 2

Last November I had the chance to travel around Central Mongolia with some staff from the international development organization Mercy Corps. We visited seven small businesses: a bakery, a ger felt factory, a carpentry coop, a sewing coop, a massage therapy group focusing on people with disabilities, a milk producer, and a felt handicraft production group.

I tagged along as a photographer/videographer, capturing interviews with business leaders at each of the locations we visited. I included five of the short films about these small businesses in a previous post.

Here are the last two:

countryside

Countryside Stories

This post, admittedly, has zero to do with music. But, it has a lot to do with Mongolia.

Last November, I traveled with a few people who work with the NGO Mercy Corps to visit some of their projects in Arkhangai Province. It was a great way to see everyday life outside of Ulaanbaatar, and also heartening to see how an organization as big as Mercy Corps is able to really make a difference in individuals’ lives.

We visited seven small businesses that were being aided by small business loans, grants, social and business training, or all of the above. The businesses included a small bakery, a ger felt and factory, a carpentry coop, a sewing coop, a massage therapy group focusing on people with disabilities, a milk producer, and a felt handicraft production group. It was eye opening to see just how far a little assistance could go. One new sewing machine or table saw really gave people a chance to expand their business and livelihood in such a productive way.

Here are some of the vignettes that came out of the trip: