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Mongolia is a country divided by two kinds of people. There are those who retain a traditional nomadic lifestyle and those who strive for a more modern life. Photographer Michele Palazzi’s Black Gold Hotel is a long term project about the impact of modernization in Mongolia.

In the last few years, Mongolia has experienced a boom in their economy, thanks to the large mining industry. The country is now developing at an extremely rapid pace. Because of this accelerated (and deregulated) development, local populations and traditional ways of life—based on ancestral, nomadic herding—are undergoing a crisis. Many families have left behind long-held traditions in the countryside, for the promise of riches that the cities hold.

Upon first reading about Mongolia’s rapidly developing economy, “I realized that the Mongolian nomads I had always dreamed of were probably going to disappear quite soon. I wanted to see my subjects through my lens of nostalgia but also to try and understand what their “modern” lives were like presently,” he says in a recent interview.

Palazzi’s long term project has brought him all over the vast country of Mongolia. Here, he tells the stories of the families in the Gobi desert that chose to continue their traditions despite all the difficulties. He also bears witness to the young people in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital, that live in a way more and more similar to their Western peers. The truth of the matter, he discovered, is the people that abandoned nomadic life hoping to find happiness in a more urban lifestyle, ended up being trapped in-between.

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All images © Michele Palazzi

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