Mette Tronvoll, who trained at the Parsons School of Design in New York, often photographs people in exotic locations, such as Greenland, Japan, Mongolia, and Svalbard. This work belongs to her “Mongolia” series and shows the people who live in the barren, dry landscape we see in the background.
Six members of the nomad family Purew, Otschir, and Luwsansharaw are placed in a gently curved, frontal line. The mountains in the distance are snow-capped, and the sky is wide and open. The picture is large-format, creating a sense of closeness between the viewers and the viewed. The four men and two women, of various ages, are dressed in the same type of robe-like attire with an opening in the front. The long sleeves conceal their arms. The two outermost figures in blue frame the group. One of the figures, a young woman in a purple, patterned costume, stands out. She has rolled up her sleeves so that her hands are showing. She is also the only one whose head is bare. All six look towards the viewer, with a neutral mien.
The six figures seem to have been lined up at random, but at the same time they seem static and carefully instructed. This is not a snapshot. The overall impression is a combination of an objective, documentary style and something more intimately communicative, a spontaneous photographic encounter between an artist and her models. The scene is captured with empathy, but without intervening or taking a stand. The figures are individuals who communicate with direct gazes, but who in a way also become idealized, preserved, and timeless representatives of a culture that to a Western audience seems alien and far removed.
Text: Marianne Yvenes
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0