Telling Diptychs of Mongolian Nomad Children

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Self-taught photographer and anthropologist A Yin has spent years documenting the people of Inner Mongolia. This series, spotted by Lens, shows nomad children in wild, unpaved grasslands, cradling livestock, proudly posing next to their yurts. Then, it shows the same children just a few years later, settled into the modern Chinese society, leaning on computer terminals and standing in urban squares. The juxtaposition is drastic. “I feel a pain in my heart as I see it all change,” A Yin says. “These traditions belong to an old world. I am documenting the way of life of the descendants of Genghis Khan.”

A Yin has a special relationship to this province. A son of farmers, a descendant of nomads, he’s worked odd jobs since childhood and fell into photography for survival’s sake, and now, after years of living here, he can’t leave. He’s shot 200,000 rolls of film, penned 26 books, and started a magazine on the region’s history and culture. “I will never leave. I have been offered money to go other places to shoot. I will not go. I don’t want to mess up my mind, my vision. I can go anywhere to shoot, but I wouldn’t feel for it.” See his dramatic, heartfelt diptychs in our gallery.

Bayasigulang in February 2006 and June 2009. Photo credit: A Yin

Wendusubatu in May 2005 and July 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Ayonga in February 2008 and July 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Mengkezhula in December 2007 and June 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Husile’erhumu in December 2006 and June 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Taonirihun in January 2007 and July 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Heyimaori in March 2008 and June 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Naidan in February 2008 and June 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Sarigai in January 2007 and June 2010. Photo credit: A Yin

Batutulaga in December 2009 and June 2010. Photo credit: A Yin