Tucked on the northern side of the Himalayas high on the Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh is politically part of India. Culturally it is strongly Tibetan influenced, and geographically it is Tibet. This collection of images is a vignette of daily life and the strong traditions retained in Ladakh despite the impending influence of a modernizing India.
"Make good use of your time, everything is important and worth recording.”
From a letter to Heinrich Harrer from Asian explorer Sven Heiden.
I have traveled many times to India, however recently it is Ladakh, perched in the northern most part of India, on the Tibetan Plateau that has captured my interest and heart. Its altitude ranges from 9,000 ft. to well over 21,000 ft. A region of India’s Jammu and Kashmir State, it remains a stronghold of Tibetan Buddhist culture on the politically sensitive border of Chinese ruled Tibet.
Ladakh is a high altitude “Moon Land”, filled with sand, rock, and snow holding many subtle tones and values enhanced by its fine quality of light. Yet, the people of Ladakh bring true life to this often-desolate landscape. To explore this relationship I have chosen black and white because the subtle tonalities achievable with this medium seem to resonate with the landscape and the vibrant lively people of Ladakh. I am fascinated by the way the Ladakhi people carve out an existence, celebrate life, and explore spirituality finding meaning in this isolated and rugged land.
A strong piece of art work has the ability to captivate and evoke an array of emotional response in its viewer. This can bring about heightened awareness for ones own state of being. Our world holds beauty, diversity, and hardship. Through my work I endeavor to show how these elements exist in Ladakh, and how they are embraced by everyday life. The Dalai Lama writes “… if we look at the history of humanity, we will find that the great majority of successful endeavors were accomplished by people who were altruistic and at peace with themselves.” I think in Ladakh, such a philosophy is in practice.
Each of the images in this series has been made with a reverence for the subject. Whether it is a landscape or a portrait, a rapport with my subject is essential. I strive for an unspoken intimacy that respects the integrity of my subject and hopefully leaves little trace of my presence. The images in this collection are created using 35mm color transparency (slide) film, scanned, converted to black and white in Photoshop, and available as archival pigment prints.
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Richard Durnan Photography
PO Box 2065
Ridgway CO 81432-2065