Students document social issues in photos

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Students of the Young Sociologist Club under the Department of Sociology and Social Work of the National University of Mongolia, together with the Arts Council of Mongolia, have been showcasing an exhibition entitled “Expressing Society Through Visual Language” from September 9 to 16.

The exhibition aims to show all students and the public the real problems of today’s society through photography and sociological interpretation.

Photographers E.Ganzorig, G.Unubold, E.Taichir and B.Injinaash, as well as students of the Young Sociologist Club showcased their works at the exhibition. They directly or indirectly touched on specific social problems and explained their causes and consequences through a sociological lens.

The “Expressing Society Through Visual Language” exhibition was displayed in the garden behind the main building of the National University of Mongolia, which was unique in that it allowed the audience to see the works among yellow trees on warm fall days and amid the movement, chatter and laughter of students on the campus.

Consisting of seven parts, the exhibition highlighted a total of seven social issues: family, children’s rights, religion, men, poor living conditions, alcoholism, and youth social problems. More specifically, next to photographs, there were posters that explained the social issues shown in the photo in a detailed and more understandable manner. It helped viewers to evaluate the social problems realistically rather than simply looking at them.

Professors of the Department of Sociology O.Munkhbat, Ts.Bold, D.Munkhtur, P.Tserenbaatar and S.Munkhbaatar worked together with the students to develop sociological scientific explanations for the social problems. For instance, in the section on youth participation, there were documentary photographs of young people who showed leadership and activism in the recent “Do Your Job!” demonstration, as well as sociological explanations of young people and the results of recent studies. The recent demonstration organized by young Mongolians has shown that the voices and attitudes of the younger generation toward social issues can have the strongest impact. The exhibition also featured the fact that a new generation of young people has begun to influence society.

'First Promise' by A.Tenuunjargal

The exhibition was another reminder that there are serious social problems that violate human rights. In specific, it can be seen from the works by photographers E.Ganzorig and B.Injinaash that we lack a society with equal rights for every child. The project team wanted to illustrate the poor condition of schools and dormitories in rural areas. The photographs on display clearly showed that children cannot live in a healthy and safe environment. On the other hand, there were also photographs to show how happy children are growing up surrounded by the love of their parents.

Untitled, by B.Injinaash

Of those who expressed a religious identity, 87.1 percent identify as Buddhist, according to the 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom in Mongolia. As Buddhism is the largest and official religion of Mongolia, the exhibition spotlighted the ritual of this religion. In particular, photographs of people praying earnestly at the Gandantegchilen Monastery were displayed along with religious items and rituals in one section. On top of these works, the main religious object of the country, “khadag”, was placed.

In addition to works by professional photographers, there were many eye-catching photographs by students that conveyed incredibly powerful messages. For instance, student G.Udval’s “Focus on Her Hand” depicts a little girl crossing the road on a rainy day with a loaf of bread and two pieces of liver puree. In her other hand, the girl is holding a handful of money and receipts. Also, student B.Enkhzul captured men using their wheelbarrow as their “car”. She wanted to show that men work hard, but their strenuous physical work is not appreciated and their health suffers.

'Focus on Her Hand' by student G.Udval

The Young Sociologist Club initiated the project and received a scholarship from the Light Horse Art Project named after Peter Morrow, organized by the Arts Council of Mongolia. 

Under this project, professional photographer B.Injinaash, media artist B.Bat-Erdene, contemporary artist E.Tsagaantsooj and artist G.Munkhbolor provided professional training and advice on photography, selected photographs for the exhibition and organized the exhibition voluntarily.

Misheel Lkhasuren

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