EXCLUSIVE

Australian University helps Mongolia’s flourishing photojournalism community





A scholarship program at RMIT University in Melbourne is providing rare opportunities for Mongolian photojournalists to hone their craft in Australia.

The independent journalism community in Mongolia is small – the Press Council of Mongolia, the country's first independent media council, was established only in January last year – but it is vibrant and growing.

The Naadam festival of Mongolia is a much love and celebrated festival. Children ride 28 kilometer horse race risking injury and even death. Old and young Mongolians run to the winning horse to touch its sweat, Mongolians believe this brings them good luck. . <cite>Photo: Davaanyam Delgerjargal</cite>
The Naadam festival of Mongolia is a much love and celebrated festival. Children ride 28 kilometer horse race risking injury and even death. Old and young Mongolians run to the winning horse to touch its sweat, Mongolians believe this brings them good luck. . Photo: Davaanyam Delgerjargal

"Pre-independence in 1990, Mongolia had three official government sanctioned media outlets. In 2017 there is thirst for news and media outlets and newspapers continue to provide a healthy rate of employment for photographers. This is in direct contrast to the western world, where employment through newspapers is in decline," Jerry Galea, photojournalist fellow at RMIT told Fairfax Media.

The scholarship winner for 2016, Mongolian photojournalist Davaanyam Delgerjargal, spoke to Fairfax Media.

Kazakh ethnic group are the second largest ethnic group in Mongolia. 101,000 people comprising 5% of the population. Today, many Kazakhs maintain traditional semi-nomadic herding by moving with their animals several times a year, and living in a Kazakh style ger (larger and taller than a Mongolian ger) during the summer. . <cite>Photo: Davaanyam Delgerjargal</cite>
Kazakh ethnic group are the second largest ethnic group in Mongolia. 101,000 people comprising 5% of the population. Today, many Kazakhs maintain traditional semi-nomadic herding by moving with their animals several times a year, and living in a Kazakh style ger (larger and taller than a Mongolian ger) during the summer. . Photo: Davaanyam Delgerjargal

"One of the issues that interests me is that though Mongolia is a beautiful country, I see Mongolians are moving from traditional culture, and the changes are coming very quick, technology brings a lot of changes ... that's what I want to catch in my photos. It's these challenging issues that I want to capture in my photos."

Davaanyam is a member of Mongolia's Batzorig Foundation of Documentary Photography and teaches photography at the Radio TV Institute, one of the few educational organisations where photography is taught in Mongolia.

"Unfortunately there are only few professional documentary photographers [in Mongolia]. Media reportage is underdeveloped here, our media organisations broadcast everyday events. But it is limited and is is reporting the difficult issues ...  the professional skills here are relatively low, we lack the practice of international journalistic standards," Delgerjargal said.

Galea, who is researching a PhD on the role of documentary photography in Mongolian society, said the RMIT program buttressed the country's independent media voices.

Amarzaya is surfing Facebook as her young child falls asleep in her arms. Ulaanbaatar, Khailaast. . <cite>Photo: Davaanyam Delgerjargal</cite>
Amarzaya is surfing Facebook as her young child falls asleep in her arms. Ulaanbaatar, Khailaast. . Photo: Davaanyam Delgerjargal

"Our program sees a gap in knowledge among Mongolian photojournalists and the scholarship is the first step to help visual understanding amongst Mongolia photojournalism community," Galea said.

As part of the program Delgerjargal will spend four weeks of workshops based at RMIT and at Melbourne's Magnet Gallery, which is a partner and supporter of the program.