In 2011, Rémi Chapeaublanc set off to find the Tsaatan people, nomadic reindeer herders, straddling the border of Northern Mongolia.
Amounting to no more than 282 people in the world, this tribe’s way of life has been disrupted by the transformation of its ancestral land into a national park. Hunting, passage and woodcutting are now prohibited there; total bans contradict their centuries-old traditions.
Since his first encounter, Rémi Chapeaublanc has continued to go back there, sharing their customs and everyday life for several weeks at a time. With this new photo series, he raises concerns about the future of the Tsaatan people, dealing with the tide of modernity in Mongolia, each year distancing them a little further from their traditional way of life. If the tribe accepts and even laughs at technological progress, it flatly rejects urban life, and opinion is divided regarding tourism. Their life in the Taiga represented absolute freedom. Now it is complex and in particular threatened.
Both humane and engaged, this series of photographs is nevertheless graphic with a particularly aesthetical and simple approach. This medium format work, produced traditionally with black and white film and then digitally enhanced, demonstrates the artist’s desire to adapt their anachronistic way of life. Rémi Chapeaublanc, who befriended a number of them, now takes the public to task asking: what will be left of the Tsaatan people?
About Rémi Chapeaublanc
Self-taught photographer Rémi Chapeaublanc was destined for a scientific career in bioinformatics. He continued to use the Cartesian approach from this training adding a sensitive, people-centred dimension the day he decided to be a photographer. Curious to learn about others, he travels without an interpreter and with no prior knowledge of the languages of the countries concerned. Facial expressions and images suffice to communicate. That is how he uses his talents in Canada, Norway, Burkina Faso, Nepal and Laos.For his series Gods & Beasts (2011), he crossed Europe and Asia reaching Mongolia. Inside the yurt or outside, at nightfall, he produced portraits of Kazakh nomadic herders and their animals without ever resorting to retouching, despite working in digital. For this most recent series The Last Tsaatan, Rémi Chapeaublanc has chosen to portray a nomadic people again: the Tsaatans, sharing their everyday life, simple happiness and desire to transmit their skills. [Official Website]
I am completely in awe of these people. I find that their simplicity of life and determination are an exceptional source of inspiration. In spite of my concern for their future, I am convinced that they have the strength and intelligence for their culture to survive.