As an eight year old, Frédéric Lagrange would sit and listen to his grandfather tell stories. At first, there’s nothing seemingly extraordinary about this – except that his grandfather was a prisoner of war, and the stories he was telling were of personal rescue. Saved by a group of Mongol soldiers fighting under Soviet command in 1944, the tale left a lasting impression on the photographer. And ever since, Mongolia has remained on Frédéric’s mind. In 2001, he set out on an intimately personal project to capture and document the life and inhabitants of the then-foreign country that saved his grandfather, and by proxy, him, too.
The result is Mongolia, a large-format, self-published photography book; the outcome of an extraordinary 17-year-long process that saw Frédéric traverse the country’s dramatically changing climates and landscapes. But the project’s challenges weren’t just physical, as Frédéric found out when it came to producing the book – from editing down 1,261 rolls of film, designing the layout with The New York Times Magazine art director Matt Willey, and printing the book itself – not to mention putting together a convincing Kickstarter proposal. Here, Frédéric tells us how this incredibly ambitious project came together – from studying the country’s topography and shooting in sub-zero temperatures to finally pressing print.