Ken Hermann Tells the Story of Magic Amidst Modernity in Inner Mongolia

All images by Ken Hermann. Used with Creative Commons permission.

In a time when cities have grown tenfold and life gets more and more fast-paced, some places still maintain a deep connection with their age-old practices and traditions. Copenhagen-based Ken Hermann gives us a colorful and fascinating view into this mix of mysticism and modernity with the portrait project set in Inner Mongolia, Shaman. Ken’s work continues to be what we’d like to call surreal-contemporary, which shapes creativity into a palatable way for most people while involving very little photoshop. We’ve featured Ken many times.

When he first traveled to Inner Mongolia, Ken became very intrigued to find that shamans were still around and practicing their craft. They weren’t modern-day counterparts or theatrical performers, but masters of the mystic traditions that involve accessing and interacting with the spirit world. He learned that the shamans claim to be able to communicate with divine entities and obtain guidance from the world beyond, as well as harness healing powers.




Fast forward to the summer of 2017, Ken returned to Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia in Northern China, to do a portrait series on the town’s shamans. According to Ken, one of them, a shaman master named Bai Aolao, keeps a special basement room at a clinic where he conducts his practice.

“Patients seek out care from him and the other shamans to cure physical or mental illness,” describes Ken. “The healing ritual is very intense and involves evocative dancing, chanting, rice wine spitting, and culminates in a trance like state of mind where the shaman ends up collapsing — totally drained of energy.”












The shaman ritual is just one of the elements that make the experience worthy of documenting for Ken. The colorful costumes are not merely for looking the part, but visual representations of the alter-egos the shaman’s channel in the ceremonies. Fascinated by the shaman’s distinct and colorful robes, it became his inspiration for creating a body of work that shows the “stark contrast between the age-old shaman tradition and the fast pacing of industrial China.”

Don’t forget to visit Ken Hermann’s Behance portfolio and website to see more of his outstanding photography.