I first heard about Mongolia when I was about 7 or 8 years old. My grandfather was a war prisoner during World War II. Both of my grandfathers served in the French army and were prisoners in Germany during the war. One of them, Louis, was rescued in late 1944 by a detachment of Mongol soldiers who had joined the war under Soviet command.

As a child, I remember the sparks of light in my grandfather’s eyes and his laughter as he described how the Germans ran away from the sight of those strong Asian men. The Mongol soldiers came from a remote country he had barely heard of before, yet here they were, assaulting the camp and freeing the prisoners. He used to describe how the prisoners—American, British, French—and the Mongol soldiers jumped into each other’s arms euphorically. This scene left an indelible picture in my mind and laid the groundwork for my interest in Mongolia and Mongols.

Throughout the last 15 years, I’ve traveled to the country periodically to work on this long-term project. My aim is to document different areas of this fascinating country and its people.

—Frédèric Lagrange

Editor’s Note: Lagrange’s project about Mongolia will soon be published as a beautiful book—visit his website and follow his work to stay up to date!