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Kerry Dean

Work / Photography

Kerry Dean photographs 12 years of “chance encounters” in Mongolia

Photographer Kerry Dean has shot fashion editorials for a stack of global publications and clients, among them i-D, Russian Vogue, AnOther, Nike, Preen and Christopher Raeburn, with exotic backdrops revealing a predilection for far-flung locations. A closer look at Kerry’s portfolio sees a particular fascination with Mongolia, a country she has been visiting since 2005. “I was searching for somewhere wild, open and remote; I guess it was a knee-jerk reaction, to the London life I was living, it was about getting as far away from that as possible, both geographically and metaphorically,” she tells It’s Nice That.

Kerry’s initial visit to Mongolia was rooted more in philanthropy than photography. “My first trip to Mongolia was 12 years ago,” the photographer remembers. “I went to volunteer for a charity working with Przewalkski horses: rare and endangered, they have been said to be the last wild horse remaining in the world.” Privately however, Kerry’s motive lay in a restless search for the unknown. “Honestly speaking, I went there on a personal journey, that was not really about volunteering or horses,” Kerry says. “Mongolia felt to me to be, perhaps, the last wild place, and for once, I wasn’t flooded with images and pre-determined notions of what I might encounter before even stepping onto the flight. That was exactly what I was searching for, some kind of unknown. So in some respects the photography was secondary.”

Since that first trip, Kerry has returned to Mongolia on many occasions to shoot images such as Pom Poms, a heartwarming series which looks at the curious trend for gauzy pom poms among pre-teenage girls living in the Gobi desert. “I work closely with a Mongolian friend, who helps me to research the areas and subjects that I want to shoot, which are often his friends and family,” Kerry tells us. “Of course there are also the people you meet along the way, but it’s a lovely way of working, as on each trip relationships are built and going back feels more and more like home I guess.”

The images below are the accumulation of many years of shooting in the country’s remote terrains. From cars swathed mysteriously in yards of patterned fabric to unidentified puffs of smoke, each occupies the same uncanny, smile-inducing territory as Pom Poms. “The images oscillate between a sense of belonging and then something quite incongruous. A combination of observations, chance encounters and orchestrated moments,” Kerry considers. “As with the Pom Pom Girls, and the Wrapped Vehicles, the colours and textures sit awkwardly against an often natural barren landscape. A traditional way of life, with Western influences creeping in.”

12 years on, Kerry shows no signs of tiring. “My curiosity, and unexplained connection to the place has compelled me to keep returning, the ongoing search for the unfamiliar and unnoticed," she says. “There are times and places, aren’t there in life, that can feel like turning points, that leave a mark on you. Mongolia is that for me and perhaps my projects there will never really end.”

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