In 1959, at twenty-four years of age, Tenzin Gyatso fled Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, down the Friendship Highway into exile. His journey continues today, fifty-three years later. The 14th Dalai Lama has been and remains an inspiration for a people who have struggled to keep their identity, culture and beliefs in the face of Chinese government oppression. For over fifty years, India has harbored the man and his faith.
My connection with Temba, a young Tibetan boy, serves as my personal inspiration to this remarkable land and its powerful people. A first journey brought me to the ‘world’s rooftop’ many years ago, and gave me the opportunity to meet and capture in photographs the charm and innocence of this free and jovial boy. His village, Nyalam Pô, lost in the hills of the mighty Tibetan plateau, was a pleasant stop on a journey from Lhasa to the Nepalese border, and onwards into the mythical city of Katmandu. As I spent a few days with Temba and his friends, we developed a relationship understood only by the privileged few who make this journey.
Temba is imbued with a kindness and pacifist nature, unusual for one who bears harsh conditions so little understood in our world today. As we passed time together, he would play with my camera, and demonstrated a curiosity not merely to understand my origins, but to truly know my identity. We became friends, and his persistent interest in my camera and film allowed me the opportunity to compile a series of magical images from the heart of the Himalayas.
As the jeeps travelled deeper into some of the world’s most magical sites, the memories return as I glance at his face and his pointing finger. How does one describe the feeling of sitting in the Tashilumpo or the Jokhang temples, transformed by the resonance of the chanting monks and lamas, and the dim light reflected by the yak butter candles? The shivers down my spine from the crisp and pure air at high altitude were perhaps the product of a greater sensation. These travels through lost temples decorated with the riches of the past, the architecture, the untouched scenery and pristine horizons, provided me a foundation for who I am today, a photographer seeking adventure. Tibet gave me a taste of what I was yearning: unrivaled scenery best characterized and captured through its people. Temba is testimony to the offerings of this holy place.
Hopefully one day our paths will cross again along the real Friendship Highway, both the spiritual one in our hearts, and the temporal one in this beautiful land.