Every year, hundreds of Tibetans make their way to the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal, seeking to escape religious and cultural repression by the Chinese government.
Crossing the border to reach Nepal can be a very costly endeavor – with guides being paid between 12 000 CNY (US$1900) and 50 000 CNY (US$8100) per person – if it is to be secure. But with the help of their family members, many Tibetans are at least able to attempt it.
But the challenge is not only found in meeting these expenses – it is also found in reconciling with leaving family members behind and the uncertainty of the future; oftentimes, it is also found in crossing the physical barriers which divide these two nations; yet, for others, the journey simply consists of a single bus or plane ride.
Whatever the reality of the journey is for these Tibetans who have fled their homes – be it dramatic or uneventful - they are all tales of refuge.
A heartfelt thanks to the staff at the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Dharamsala, India, for their support, and particular gratitude extended to Tenzin Ngodup, for his time, dedication, and organization through the duration of the project.
I am a Canadian freelance photographer and documentary filmmaker with a Masters degree in International Multimedia Journalism from Newcastle University (UK). While there, I trained with the BBC and Press Association and have since contributed to several media outlets, including Inter Press Service, the BBC, and HotShoe.
Having always worked internationally, straddling both the media and human rights sectors, I have gone on to develop a particular interest in exploring the themes of loss, displacement, and transformation through my work, be it through still or moving images.
While completing this documentary photography project, I was overwhelmed by the narratives that the Tibetan refugees shared with me and did my best to obtain detailed accounts of their journeys. Perhaps the greatest challenge beyond dealing with such a sensitive topic and language barriers, however, was navigating the photographic aspect of the project, as it was necessary to protect their identities for security purposes.
It was a privilege to have been in the company of this group of new arrivals and I hope that the photographs both successfully exhibit their enduring spirit and communicate the gravity of the situation inside of Tibet.
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Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre & the Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
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