Posts Tagged ‘traditional Mongolian shoes

17
Jul
22

Photographs: Images of Mongolian noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century (1910s-1920s)

July 2022

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man with cut-out pedestal]' 1910s-1920s

 

1. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man with cut-out pedestal]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

 

Rendering the past and the presence, shaping history and memory

These fascinating glass plate negatives from Mongolia have been saved for prosperity by the Endangered Archives Programme which “seeks to preserve cultural heritage and make it available to as wide an audience as possible… [The programme] primarily funds digitisation projects to record and preserve the content of archives. Our projects create digital material in a format that facilitates long-term preservation, and at least two copies of these are stored: a primary copy that remains at an appropriate repository in the country of origin, and a secondary copy held at the British Library… The EAP website provides access to these digital collections for research, education and enjoyment. We do not however distribute high resolution, print quality versions of images, referring requests for these back to the original holders of the archive. We also seek to ensure that the values of the people and communities from which the archives have come are respected and that they are consulted in any significant re-use of the digital material.”1

While the outcomes of the project are noble and valuable, in effect, these photographs will remain buried in the archive on the British Library website unless someone is specifically undertaking focused research on the history of Mongolian photography. I tried to contact the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia to use the images but got no reply. Thus, I use the images under fair use conditions for the purposes of education and research in order that a wider range of people around the world will actually get to see and appreciate them.

I have digitally cleaned all of the images to remove scratches and dust spots to present them to the best of their advantage. I wanted to know what size the glass plate negatives are but not even this information is included on the British Library website. No information on the image makers is available … but they were probably photographers making a living travelling from town to town taking portraits of local families, carrying their painted canvas backdrops applied to collapsible boards with them.

 

Images 1-18

The most interesting group of images in this posting are from one session which I have grouped in numbers 1-18 below. I have only a small idea in which order these photographs were taken. The time on the alarm clock is indistinguishable in some of the photographs and in others jumps from 12.55pm to 2.55pm to 4.35pm to 4.45pm. If we assume that the alarm clock was working during the portrait session (it could have been broken and manually changed to different positions), then this would indicate that the photoshoot took place over the course of one afternoon. What we do know is that these photographs were all taken in one location in one sitting and are of one extended family or village group wearing their finest clothes, posed in a portable, constructed studio setting.

In image number 1 (above) a man stands in front of a painted canvas backdrop of an effusive, rococo-style scene with window, acanthus decorated columns, heavy curtains decorated with tassels and profuse carved wood work. We can see the edge of the backdrop boards to the right of the man and also observe the piece of wire or rope which is holding them up at top right. The “set” or mise-en-scène (the stage of a theatrical production or the setting or surroundings of an event) is inside a house (not a traditional portable, round tent covered with skins or felt which in Mongolia is called a ger), for at right we can see wallpaper on the wall of the house. There are bare wooden floorboards covered in a patterned carpet with circular motifs and to the right is a bentwood chair. The man stands behind a prop – a probably wooden, cut-out decorated column – looking off camera with an air of authority. He is the only person in the twelve images that is so positioned (behind a column). He is probably a leader of the village and / or head of the household.

In image 2 a man sits on a chair on the same carpet with his hands on his knees staring straight into the camera lens. In his right hand is a set of prayer beads possibly made from mala seeds. The bentwood chair has been replaced to the right hand side with a more sturdy looking chair. In image 3 two men sit on chairs on the same carpet with a table between them, staring directly at the camera. Both men have their hands on their knees and one holds some prayer beads. They are probably father and son. On the table are what I think are prized possessions of the family and / or village: two decorated vases and what would have been a rare and valuable object in 1910s-1920s Mongolia, an alarm clock with bell. The vases, alarm clock and later, teapot, cups and saucers – the cups with handles, a very Western influence as tea in Mongolia was usually drunk in cups without handles2 – are a recurring presence in these photographs, perhaps signifying the status of the family being photographed.

Image number 4 shows a standing man and a women, possibly husband and wife, staring directly at the camera. The same two vases and clock are present on the table between them, but this time the table has been covered in an elaborately decorated tablecloth. Notice how the length of women’s sleeves completely cover her hands by some distance. The same carpet is present on the floor as it is in image number 5. In this fifth image the photographer has moved the couple, again probably husband and wife, along the backdrop so that the painted column appears directly between them above the more prominently displayed table, covered with the same tablecloth. Now there is only one vase displayed, directly behind the same alarm clock. Again, note the length of both male and female sleeves on their costumes, completely covering their hands by a long way.3 The relocation of the couple has cropped the window out of frame to the right, while the bentwood chair now makes a reappearance.

In image number 6 the photographer turns the camera horizontally and pulls back from the subjects to capture a family group, possibly a mother at second left accompanied by her two sons and daughter. All participants stand front on to the camera and stare directly into the camera lens but it is interesting to note the body language of the group: the men stand rigid and stiff, one with his hand on his hip, while the mother sways to her right and the daughter leans to her left, both unsure of the process of being photographed and the final outcome of the photograph. The same carpet is on the floor and two bentwood chairs are now to the right.

In the vertical image number 7 the photographer has moved forward to produce a more tightly cropped photograph, placing the two men directly in front of the table obscuring it and the vase (which can just be seen behind the men) from view. He (for undoubtedly at this time the photographer would have been a man) has also replaced the large carpet with a small carpet with diagonal decoration as its border, isolating the men so that they seem to float above the bare wooden floorboards. The man at right stares off camera to somewhere behind and to the left of the camera, while the man at left stares with disdain and a sense of defiance directly at the camera.

In image number 8 the photographer retains the closer perspective but moves nearer again, titling the camera down to observe the seated man (notice how the window at top right has been cropped from the previous image). Here the photographer balances the composition left to right using the prominent position of table, vases and alarm clock to offset the form of the seated man who stares straight at the camera. The carpet is the same as in the seventh image with its diagonal border, but this time you can see the profuse inner geometric pattern of dark and light shapes. In the family group which is image 9, the photographer has turned the camera horizontally so as to fit in the subjects of his composition, retaining the carpet with the diagonal edge decoration and light and dark inner shapes from the previous image. The not happy child holds her mother’s hand, the woman in the traditional noble headdress of the married Khalkha upper class women, a special hairstyle designed to mimic cow’s horns or, in another version, the wings of a mythical bird. “The basis of [the headdress] is a small silver cap with filigree, to which numerous silver, coral or turquoise ornaments are attached. The combed back hair is divided into two parts and formed into the “horns” with the help of several silver or bamboo pins. The lower part of the strands is braided in plaits. Rich women allow themselves to further decorate this part of the hair: the plaits are put into embroidered brocade covers with rows of coral and silver bands. For special events or for travelling a pointed hat (malagay) which looks like a crown is worn over the small cap. The hat is usually made of velvet and has colourful ribbons attached at the back. The top is sometimes decorated with a big coral or other stone.”4

In image number 10 the photographer has moved the group of men, possibly a seated father (or grandfather?) and his standing sons, much further down the painted backdrop completely cropping out the painted window. On the floor is the original carpet in image 1. All men stare directly at the camera with the seated father slightly in front of his sons. In image 11, the original carpet has been replaced by the second carpet which was seen in the ninth image, the one with the diagonal border. The background is in roughly the same position as can be seen when you compare the column behind the left hand figure in both photographs and the camera is at the same height… but the background must have been physically moved, because the roof support in image 10 is now much more to the left in image 11. In the latter image, the covered table, vases and alarm clock take pride of place, front and centre, with the three men standing to the side and behind the table. Two stare directly at the camera, whilst the other at right stands obliquely to the picture plane and stares off camera to the left. Such positioning of the figures suggests that the photographer had a knowledge of the poses of classical group portraiture and portrait photography in particular. Further, as we can observe in these photographs, “the portrait functioned as an extension of the ceremonies and rituals of daily life. Self-representation was now a major aspect of social life, because it could pave the way to obtaining a place of honor.”5 These photographs also function as a place where the intimacy and narrative of family life were exposed to the public eye, where private becomes public, and in the mise-en-scène of the stage-set the actors were posed to create a theatrical, representative view of how they wanted to see themselves – and how others should see them. This is a scene constructed explicitly for the portrait to … render present, to re-present the presence of the people themselves. And in the posing, directed by the photographer, the subjects assume the shape of a desired representation.

Image 12 is the only photograph in the group of twelve images taken indoors that features a woman on her own. Dressed in all her finery and wearing her traditional headdress the seated woman is posed frontally and stares straight at the camera, her hand lightly resting on her inner thighs. Behind her the column of the painted backdrop that was seen behind the man at left in the eleventh image is now directly behind her head and more of the backdrop has been recorded at her right: flowers, a lush garden with stairs and bannister railing, and a heavy brocade curtain with numerous tassels. The camera has again moved closer to the subject for the edge of the diagonally decorated carpet now appears at the bottom of the image with no floorboards being visible, whilst the top of the image has been framed just at the top of the painted backdrop. The revelatio of the pulled back curtain reveals a wished for, Western, utopian landscape, a paradise reached by the woman in all her finery on her magic carpet.

And the carpet truly does fly!

In image 13 the carpet has been moved down a set of steps onto the bare earth in front of a house with the table, and a different tablecloth, for company. The mise-en-scène is now a simple backdrop of a piece of white fabric which has been pinned by the photographer to the railing of the house – prescient of the work of photographer Richard Avedon and his series In the American West with similar frontal stance and direct gaze of the sitter (see below), although this anonymous photographer never closes in on the subject to fully isolate the subject against the white ground as happens in much conceptual, contemporary portrait photography. What the photographer does do over the remaining images (14-18) is move the camera forward and backward in order to frame his subject(s), changing the camera’s orientation for larger groups.

In image 14 the photographer has moved forward so as to more tightly crop the image: there is no earth and less of the window behind is visible; the same alarm clock as in previous images has made a reappearance. Image 15 is even more tightly cropped, with no carpet and even less window being visible… the alarm clock has been lost and now the sitter is positioned to the left of the table as opposed to image 14 when they were to the right. In image 16 (observe the bare table) and 17, the photographer has moved the camera around another side of the building: note the mud-caked wooden logs, part of the structure of the bottom of the house, the lack of railing and strong sun causing shadows to fall on the wall behind. In previous images (13-15) there is no shadow for the sitters were not in direct sunlight. In the final image, image 18, the photographer has moved the camera again to another wall of the house, this time to a backdrop of a cracked, bare earth wall with the carpet and table placed on the barren ground. In all of these portrait photographs the subject stares impassively at the camera.

In whatever “order” these photographs were taken, through analysis we can begin to see, and feel, and imagine, the choreographic dance that the photographer would have had to go through to capture the likeness of his sitters. We can imagine the cacophony of sound, the instructions to set up backdrops, to move the camera, to arrange the people (after they had dressed in their finest clothes) and extras (such as the table, tablecloth, alarm clock, vases and carpets) for each photograph – for the photographer to capture the person in perfect stillness, order out of the disorder. This dis/order is doubled by the storage of these photographs in an archive, that of the Endangered Archives Programme, where everything is supposedly kept in order but where, “Archives contain elements of truth and error, order and disorder and are infinitely fascinating. As both collections of records and repositories of data, archives are able to shape history and memory depending on how, when and by whom the materials are accessed. Their vastness allows for multiple readings to be unravelled over time.”6

And that is my hope for these images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century. That other people approach the material from different perspectives, different points of view, whether they be artistic, ethnographic, fashion, or Indigenous for example – that they also critique the ideas and systems of archives in order to understand why these images are in an archive, how they can be more freely distributed and studied, and what is their ongoing relevance to the history and culture of contemporary Mongolia. As with the posed photographs of Edward Curtis and his portrayal of The North American Indian, these photographs may “show us today some things that we may no longer have access to and give us a window into eyes of real human beings who were in the process of losing the lives they had known for centuries.”7

Time moves on, cultures change (today Mongolians wear Western clothes and only don traditional clothes for festivals and special events; in the winter they wear a Russian-style fur hat and padded jacket), technology and development take over… but these photographs still give us an important window into the soul of a people.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 2,777

 

Footnotes

  1. Anonymous text. “Preservation through digitisation of rare photographic negatives from Mongolia (EAP264),” on the British Library Endangered Archives Programme website Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2022
  2. Mongolian tea called suutei tsai is served with nearly every meal. The tea is served in small bowls as opposed to cups. The tea is made with green tea, milk, water and salt.
  3. “Both men and women wear “dels” (caftan-like, ankle-length padded silk robes lined with sheepskin for the winter and tied around the waist with a sashlike belt) in the winter and a “terlig” (thinly-lined coat similar to a del) in the summer… Dels are designed for horseback riding, keeping riders warm while not constraining them. They have high collars that can be buttoned or unbuttoned. The left side buttons close over the right side. The edges of the coat and sleeves are sometimes trimmed with velvet of another beautiful fabric. Sometimes a long sash or leather belt adorned with silver or copper ornaments is tied around the waist. Under theirs dels, Mongolians generally wear baggy trousers and a shirt…
    Men and women wear “Mongol gutal” (embroidered leather knee boots with thick soles and upturned toes). There are several explanations as to why the boots are made in this way. Some say they give riders confidence that they won’t slip from the stirrups. Other says that Buddhism is the reason: the upturned toes are said to be less likely to kill insects than conventional footwear. In the winter felt is placed in them for extra warmth…
    Headgear is often an indicator of where someone is from. Mongolia men sometimes don “loovus” (pointed hats) on feast days or weddings or other important occasions. These have traditionally been made of wolf or fox skin and are said offer good protection in the cold and wind. Other types of men’s hat include the “janjin malgai” and “toortsog”…
    Men used to wear their hair pulled back in a braid. Women wore theirs in two braids covered with velvet. The braids were worn in front of the shoulders and silver and coral ornaments were woven into them. Young girls wore multi braids joined at the temple with red thread…
    In the old days upper class women wore elaborate headdresses and sculpted the hair in bizarre horn-like designs with hardened mutton fat and tied their hair with jewellery pieces made of silver, turquoise and coral… During festivals, even some nomads wore their hair in massive headdresses, decorated with silver and coral, or tied their hair with large bows. A family’s wealth was often measured by precious stones and metals in a woman’s hair.”
    Text from various sources quoted in “Mongolian clothes: Beauty and Hygiene in Mongolia,” on the Facts and Details website, last updated April 2016 [Online] Cited 17/07/2022. For more information on traditional Mongolian dress please see this website
  4. Anonymous text. “Traditional headdresses of the Mongolian women,” on the Local Style website, 17/01/2013 [Online] Cited 07/07/2022
  5. Guillaume Blanc. “A History of Portrait Photography, Part I,” on the Blind Magazine website Nd [Online] Cited 05/07/2022
  6. Anonymous text. “Order and Disorder: Archives and Photography,” on the National Gallery of Victoria website [Online] Cited 17/07/2022
  7. Executive Director Shannon Keller O’Loughlin (Choctaw) of the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA). Email to the author, 1 June 2018 [Online] Cited 17/07/2022

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images are used under “fair use” conditions for the purpose of education and research and remain the copyright of the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

2. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian men]' 1910s-1920s

 

3. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

The time on the alarm clock is indistinguishable.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman and man]' 1910s-1920s

 

4. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman and man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

The time on the alarm clock is 4.45pm.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man and woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

5. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man and woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

The time on the alarm clock is 4.45pm.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian men and two Mongolian women]' 1910s-1920s

 

6. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian men and two Mongolian women]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian men]' 1910s-1920s

 

7. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian men]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man with cut-out pedestal]' 1910s-1920s

 

8. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

The time on the alarm clock is 12.55pm.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian men, two Mongolian women and a child]' 1910s-1920s

 

9. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian men, two Mongolian women and a child]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Three Mongolian men]' 1910s-1920s

 

10. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Three Mongolian men]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Three Mongolian men]' 1910s-1920s

 

11. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Three Mongolian men]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

The time on the alarm clock is 2.55pm.

 

Lady Hawarden. 'Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens; Photographic Study' c. 1862-1863

 

Lady Clementina Hawarden (Viscountess, British 1822-1865)
Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens; Photographic Study
c. 1862-1863
Albumen print; Sepia photograph mounted on green card
21.6 x 23.2cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Note the table with prominent fabric embroidery(?) pattern

 

 

Lady Clementina Hawarden, a noted amateur photographer of the 1860s, frequently photographed her children. Here, her second-eldest daughter Clementina Maude poses next to a mirror, in  which a bulky camera is reflected. The camera  seems to stand in for the photographer, making  this a mother-daughter portrait of sorts.

This photograph gives a good idea of Lady Hawarden’s studio and the way she used it. It was situated on the second floor of her house at 5 Princes Gardens in the South Kensington area of London. Here her daughter Clementina poses beside a mirror. A movable screen has been placed behind it, across the opening into the next room. A side table at the left balances a desk at the right. The figure of the young girl is partially balanced and echoed by the camera reflected in the mirror and the embroidery resting on the table beside it.

Hawarden appears to have worked with seven different cameras. The one seen in the mirror is the largest. Possibly there is a slight suggestion of a hand in the act of removing and/or replacing the lens cap to begin and end the exposure.

Text from the V&A website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

12. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]' 1910s-1920s

 

13. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]' 1910s-1920s

 

14. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

The time on the alarm clock is 4.35pm.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]' 1910s-1920s

 

15. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Richard Avedon at work

 

Richard Avedon at work

 

Richard Avedon. 'Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980' 1980

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980
1980
Gelatin silver print

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]' 1910s-1920s

 

16. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman and table]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Three Mongolian women and two Mongolian men]' 1910s-1920s

 

17. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Three Mongolian women and two Mongolian men]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

The time on the alarm clock is indistinguishable.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian women and table]' 1910s-1920s

 

18. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian women and table]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Notice the length of the sleeves which completely cover the hands by some distance.

 

 

Mongolia at the start of the 20th century was agrarian, and its people were highly stratified socially and economically. There were two classes of vassals: the khamjlaga, who under Manchu law were serfs for life of the local nobility and civil administrators; and the shavi, the vassals of the monastery estates. Trade in essentials like tea, rice, and tobacco was in the hands of Chinese companies, which willingly extended credit at high interest rates. The currency consisted of units of livestock, as well as tea bricks, small silver ingots, and some foreign coins. When the officials and nobility got into debt, the would increase their taxes in kind on the population. As a result, many Mongols were impoverished and occasionally rebellious, despite the risk of terrible punishment at the hands of the Qing authorities, who had built fortified administrative centres and garrison towns like Khovd and Uliastai to control Mongolia’s regions.

By 1911, when the Chinese Revolution broke out, unrest was widespread in Mongolia. In December the Manchu amban was ordered to leave, the Javzandamba was proclaimed the Bogd Khan (“Holy King”), and he declared the independence of Mongolia – Inner Mongolia and Tannu Tuva (Tyva), as well as Outer Mongolia. Also at that time, the Bogd Khan’s capital, Ikh Khüree (“Great Monastery”), was renamed Niislel Khüree (“Capital Monastery”). The Qing emperor abdicated in 1912, and the Republic of China was proclaimed.

Also that year Russia signed a treaty with the Bogd Khan’s government that recognized Mongolia, although the interpretation of this recognition between the two parties differed: Mongolia considered itself independent of China, while Russia characterized Mongolia as being “autonomous.” The Russian position was further underlined in 1913, when Russia and China issued a declaration stating that Mongolia was still under Chinese suzerainty. Mongolia objected, but this status was reinforced by a joint Russian-Chinese-Mongolian treaty in 1915, in which the Bogd Khan’s government was obliged to accept autonomy under Chinese suzerainty. As a result, the Bogd Khan was unable to unite Inner with Outer Mongolia, nor was he able to prevent Russia from colonizing Tuva.

Soviet power was established in St. Petersburg following the Russian Revolution of 1917, and it gradually was extended eastward across Russia. In August 1919 the Soviet Russian government recognized Mongolian autonomy, but within a few months Chinese troops had occupied Niislel Khüree and deposed the Bogd Khan. During that turbulent period, Mongolian nationalists Dansrangiin Dogsom, Dogsomyn Bodoo, and others formed underground resistance groups and established contact with Russian Bolsheviks.

In June 1920 a group of these revolutionaries formed the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), and two months later several MPP members, including Soliin Danzan and Dambdyn Chagdarjav, were sent to Moscow to seek help from the Comintern (Third International) and to meet Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Two other revolutionaries, Damdiny Sükhbaatar and Khorloogiin Choibalsan, who had stayed in Siberia in the city of Irkutsk, made their way to the small town of Troitskosavsk on the border with Mongolia to organize the resistance. Meanwhile, tsarist cavalry units under the command of Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg (known as the “Mad Baron”) entered Mongolia from eastern Siberia, advanced on Niislel Khüree, drove out the Chinese occupation forces, and in February 1921 restored the Bogd Khan to the throne under the baron’s control.

The rule of the Mad Baron was cruel and bloody but relatively brief. In March 1921 the Mongolian revolutionaries gathered in Troitskosavsk and held the first MPP congress, where they adopted a program of action and appointed a provisional cabinet. A Mongolian revolutionary force was assembled under Sükhbaatar’s command that, along with Soviet army units, advanced southward into Mongolia and in July 1921 captured Niislel Khüree. A “people’s government” of Mongolia was appointed, with Bodoo as prime minister, and July 11 subsequently was celebrated as the anniversary of its establishment (now the first day of the naadam sports festival). The Bogd Khan was reinstated as a constitutional monarch with limited powers. The baron was captured in August, handed over to the Soviet authorities, and executed. In November Danzan and Sükhbaatar were sent to Moscow to meet Lenin, and the first Mongolian-Soviet treaty was concluded.

Julia Chandler (ed.,). Colonial and Postcolonial East and Southeast Asia. Britannica Educational Publishing, 2017, pp. 104-109.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

19. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Notice the long time exposure of the camera, indicated by the blur of the man’s dress at lower left.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

20. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian men with two vases]' 1910s-1920s

 

21. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian men with two vases]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Again, not the length of the sleeves which completely cover the hands.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man with two vases and clock]' 1910s-1920s

 

22. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man with two vases and clock]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman with clock]' 1910s-1920s

 

23. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman with clock]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Four Mongolian men]' 1910s-1920s

 

24. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Four Mongolian men]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian men]' 1910s-1920s

 

25. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian men]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Not the same painted backdrop as image 24.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian men with two clocks]' 1910s-1920s

 

26. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian men with two clocks]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

 

Preservation through digitisation of rare photographic negatives from Mongolia (EAP264)

Aims and objectives

The Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording in Mongolia houses over 160,000 photo negatives, including 10,552 glass plate negatives. This project aims to digitise all these glass plate negatives, the majority of which contain images taken between 1921 and 1945 and have never been printed. The collection covers a wide range of topics such as the army and military, public health, animal husbandry, archaeological finds, nature, prominent Mongolian people, people who were politically repressed during the 1930s, historical documents, construction works, industrial development, Mongolia’s contribution to the victory of WWII, culture, religion and politics.

The collection is housed in the Archives building, which has no adequate and controlled preservation environment and lacks humidity and air control. The glass plates are kept in paper envelopes on shelves where they are exposed to physical mishandling and deterioration in image quality. Only 3,000 have been catalogued. Since no digital images are available to researchers and the general public, these glass plates are in danger of being exposed to frequent printing which represents a threat to the physical condition of the originals themselves. Once degraded in quality or destroyed due to frequent printing and mishandling, this unique pre-industrialised history of Mongolia will be lost for ever.

As the originals will eventually be too fragile for frequent handling, the only way of preserving and providing access to users of this valuable collection is through digitisation. The remaining 7,000 glass plates will also be catalogued. Training schemes will be developed to preserve and further restore archival photographs and the introduction of this digital archive will inspire the Archives, the MSV Foundation and other individuals to carry out further projects to help preserve and digitise the remaining archival holdings.

 

Outcomes

Research and a visual inspection have been carried out on over 7,000 uncatalogued “orphan” glass negative plates and a bulk of them have been cleaned from dirt, dust and paints.

A total of 10,089 glass negative plates have been digitised. Uncatalogued digitised images have been sorted out either into existing or new collections of the Archives thus enriching its catalogued photographic contents.

Some Archives’ staff have received professional training in digitising technology as well as in digital archives handling. The successful implementation of the project serves to testify that cooperation between the Archives and other national cultural bodies, including MSV Foundation, is vital for the future in preserving and restoring the Archives’ stocks.

This has been the first ever major project funded by foreign institutions and a great challenge for the MSV Foundation. It is considered that the project has been a great success which will certainly add to the good reputation of the Foundation locally.

Thanks to the project, the MSV Foundation will be able to bring more and more historic film and photographic enthusiasts closer together in safeguarding the nation’s cinematographic and photographic heritage.

The original glass negative plates are still housed in the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording. Digital copies have been deposited with the Archives, MSV Foundation and the British Library.

Anonymous text. “Preservation through digitisation of rare photographic negatives from Mongolia (EAP264),” on the British Library Endangered Archives Programme website Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2022

 

Unknown photographer. 'Prince Navaantseren of Tsetsen Khanate – one of the four Khanates of the Khalha (Outer Mongolia excluding three Durvut banners) Mongolia' 1910s

 

27. Unknown photographer
Prince Navaantseren of Tsetsen Khanate – one of the four Khanates of the Khalha (Outer Mongolia excluding three Durvut banners) Mongolia
1910s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

28. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Note the same carpet as image 27… taken at the same photo session

 

Michael J Drew (1873-1943) 'Group taking tea in a garden' between 1890 and 1900

 

Michael J Drew (Australian, 1873-1943)
Group taking tea in a garden

 

James Fox Barnard (1874-1945) '[Tea on the verandah]' c. 1900

 

James Fox Barnard (Australian, 1874-1945)
[Tea on the verandah]
c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

29. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Note the same carpet as image 27… taken at the same photo session

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man with two teacups and saucers]' 1910s-1920s

 

30. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man with two teacups and saucers]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Two Mongolian women]' 1910s-1920s

 

31. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Two Mongolian women]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

32. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

33. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

34. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

35. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Note the same carpet as image 34… taken at the same photo session

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

36. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Note the same carpet as image 34… taken at the same photo session

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian man]' 1910s-1920s

 

37. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian man]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman with clock and flowers]' 1910s-1920s

 

38. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman with clock and flowers]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman with two children]' 1910s-1920s

 

39. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman with two children]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

40. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman and child]' 1910s-1920s

 

41. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman and child]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

42. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

43. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Mongolian woman]' 1910s-1920s

 

44. Unknown photographer
Untitled [Mongolian woman]
1910s-1920s
Glass plate negative
The original material is held by the Archives for Cinema, Photography and Sound Recording, Mongolia
From Images of noblemen and noblewomen of early 20th century [1910s-1920s], British Library, Endangered Archives Programme EAP264/1/8/2
https://eap.bl.uk/archive-file/EAP264-1-8-2

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957) 'Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh' 1987

 

Suresh Punjabi (Indian, b. 1957)
Untitled (Portrait of a young tea seller) Suhag Studio, Nagda, Madhya Pradesh
1987

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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