Shagdarsuren Bayarsaikhan, or better known to her fans as Shmio, is a Mongolian fashion photographer residing in Japan. Although she’s currently studying architecture at university, she’s been using photography to challenge the conventions of how the world sees her native country ever since she took up the medium in 2014. Mongolia has long been seen through elements of its traditional culture that the outside world finds exotic, such as yurts, lush grasslands, and fur-clad nomads herding livestock. Shmio’s photographs are a striking departure from this stereotype: Mongolians grace her images in all their unabashed beauty, but without the tropes of Western exoticism.
Shagdarsuren Bayarsaikhan 是一位居住在日本的蒙古时尚摄影师，她更为粉丝所熟悉的名字是 Shmio。尽管她目前正在大学修读建筑学，但自从2014年拿起相机起，她就一直在通过摄影这一媒介来改变人们对她的祖国的一些偏见。一直以来，其它国家人们对蒙古的了解，大都局限于其传统文化的元素，一些充满异国情调的画面，譬如蒙古包、茂盛的草原，或是身穿皮草大衣的牧民在放牧牲畜。而 Shmio 的摄影作品却和这些刻板印象大相径庭：蒙古人独特的面貌让她的照片别具魅力，但却避免了西方世界所理解的那种异国情调。
Shmio’s soft tones and striking subjects have earned her high praise. In her series, Beautiful Mongolian Woman, she shot her subjects in her apartment, in Ulaanbaatar, in front of a plain blue backdrop. The color is a subtle homage to Munkh Khukh Tengri, a Mongolian tradition of worshipping the vast blue sky. Shmio juxtaposes the blue background with the red circles painted on her model’s cheeks. These elements of tradition enhance rather than distract from her subject’s beauty. “I saw her at a party, and saw how she had a very unique Mongolian look,” she recalls, “and I just wanted to capture that look. So we planned a photo session at my home.”
Shmio 作品中的柔和色调和醒目的主题让她倍受赞赏。在创作她的摄影系列《Beautiful Mongolian Woman》（《美丽的蒙古女人》）时，她邀请摄影对象来到自己位于乌兰巴托的公寓里，在简单的蓝色背景前面进行拍摄。这种颜色是蒙古人对“Munkh Khukh Tengri”（指无垠且永恒的蓝天）的一种微妙致敬。Shmio 将蓝色背景与模特脸颊上描画的红色圆圈并列在一起。这些传统元素的添加，意外地突显了模特的美感。“我是在一次聚会上遇到她的，当时就觉得她的脸属于非常典型的蒙古面孔。”她回忆说，“我只是想用镜头记录这样面孔。所以，我们就商量好在我家拍一组照片。”
Shmio also departs from the casual excess of typical Mongolian fashion photography. A meticulously planned minimalism punctuates her work. “I typically imagine what kind of photo I want to take. I feel when I do that I get better photos than when I just show up and see what happens. I have trouble getting good shots if I don’t plan,” she says. She also believes that the background shouldn’t overwhelm an image. “If you have too much going on in the background,” she explains, “you have to make the subject stand out more, and that just makes the image too busy.” Her work stands in stark contrast with the luxury-laden imagery often found in her country’s commercial shoots.
Still, she believes Mongolian fashion photography is starting to move in the right direction. “Photographers are finally capturing the style and imagery of Mongolian youth,” she says. “Yes, on some occasions even major brands have blatantly plagiarized foreign photographers. Overall, though, it’s getting better.”
Though she doesn’t see herself as breaking with the status quo, she’s considered a bold artist by her peers. “I’m not planning to become a professional photographer anytime soon. I want to pursue a career in architecture. Photography is something I love, something that makes me happy.” The honesty Shmio brings to her photography is also evident in her definition of beauty: “Beauty for me is not something fake. It’s original. It makes you feel calm. As soon as you see it, you can’t help but gasp and say, ‘That’s beautiful.’”