A photographic account of a 3O,OOO km odyssey across Mongolia

Twilight fires of the Cretaceous
Born from the cradle of civilization
Faith, willpower and courage
Spring migration
Guardians of the empire of the blue Turk
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Mongolian Odysseys

Frostbite is a malady most Hongkongers only read about; Marc Progin has first-hand experience. At an age when successful expatriates retire to tropical paradises, he embarked on a series of odysseys across Mongolia, akin to Ansel Adams’ documentation of Yosemite or the missionary Dr David Livingstone’s mapping of Africa’s heartland.    

Ansel Adams

These comparisons are not hyperbolies. Progin’s photographs are like those of the American landscape photographer and environmental conservationist Ansel Adams (1902-1984) in esthetics and purpose. Progin and Adams are able to imagine and then capture landscape images that have more in common with paintings than photographs. And both artists are compelled to use their art for environmental advocacy.

Dr David Livingstone

For thirty years, Dr Livingstone (1813-1873) explored and learned how to live outside of the comforts of Western society, documenting places and people previously known only to the local inhabitants. In a similar vein, over the last nineteen years, Progin estimates he has spent three years walking, running, cycling, and riding camels and horses across an estimated 30,000 km on every terrain the country offers. Avoiding cities and towns, he has travelled alone across the thirty-three deserts that form the Mongolian Gobi deserts, negotiating through the Altai and Kanghai mountains, crossing the vast barren steppe, roaming Siberian forests and meeting all of Mongolia’s ethnic groups. 

Frostbite

From encounters with these nomads, Progin learned to survive all four seasons of the harsh Mongolian terrain without the need for possessions, modern equipment and complicated logistics. That said, each of his trips is part of a project with a specific purpose, and he meticulously researches where he might discover ancient treasures. Some of his journeys are in the winter so as to experience what it must have been like for nomads living there during the Palaeolithic age. It was during one of these trips that Progin experienced frostbite. 

When nothing but earth, heaven and nature are the companions of your days and nights, then life is a wonderful journey into the immensity of true freedom.

Marc Progin

Scene-stealing Landscapes

Since 2005, Progin has repeatedly returned, taking over 40,000 images. They document ancient artefacts, nomads, wildlife, migrating birds and caravans of hunters. However, the star subject in Progin’s photographs is always the Mongolian landscape. Seen through crystal clear air, the vast landscapes continually frame, backdrop and scene-steal every image.

Marc Progin

Progin is now seventy-nine; last year, he was again in Mongolia, adding to his portfolio. Like Ansel Adams, his images are art; like Dr Livingston, he is willing to shed Western comforts to capture the beauty of the Mongolian landscape and preserve its ancient treasures. His life and work are inspiring, a reminder of the power of art and exploration in deepening our understanding of the world and preserving its cultural and natural heritage.

Marc Progin’s images are on display at La Galerie Paris 1839’s Sanctuary Frozen in Time exibition.

Text by: Martin Wray / Marc Progin