Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Posts Tagged ‘marieke ten wolde

Freeing the Fish, the book

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The last months I have been very busy with finalising the book about the changing and modernising life in Tibet. Last week I received the result of all the hard work on design, lithography, paper choice etc. It looks really great. And it is so nice to finally be able to hold the book, smell it, go through the pages. I guess I am still in love the tangible paper-based book, although all the online and e-stuff are great as well.

‘Freeing the Fish, Progress and Impermanence in modern-day Tibet’ is a photo book which also contains 20 of my stories that provide you with background information about the life in Tibet. The stories sometimes have a personal touch, are a little more serious than my blogs and are all new!

You can have a preview at my website. The book turned out really well, so I am very pleased to now be able to sell this through my web-shop.

For everyone in the Netherlands: At FotoFestival Naarden I have a large photo series exhibited (the festival runs until 23 June). The photos in the book, especially the spreads are quite big (almost 60 cm wide) but at the festival the panoramic images are almost one and half meter and that is yet something different. It feels like you are submerged in the Tibetan world, for a moment at least…

So if you have the chance, come and see. I will be there on 1 June and 9 June and you can also buy the book at the festival.

For all of you who will not be able to come, below an impression of what it looks like.

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Tibet Travel log 14: Traditional Tibetan medicine

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The farmacy at Kirti monastery clinic in Ngaba (Aba)

In large parts of Tibet it is still the monks and the monasteries that practise the traditional Tibetan medicine, that oversee the collection of the raw ingredients and take care of the preparation of the pills and powders.

Not as large-scale and modern as the pharmaceutical factory in Lhasa but also in these smaller factories modern machines are used to increase production.

The factory in the photos below is located in Peyul (Sichuan). It took me quite some effort to find it, communicating with hand and feet and my three words of Chinese and Tibetan as my translator decided to sleep in that morning. People in the streets were quite happy to help but had no idea what I wanted. I was the only foreigner in town and I would probably be the only big-nose foreigner for months to come as well. Even if there were others they would probably not try to visit the factory and not be out and about at 5 in the morning.
So they kept offering me tea, food, a place at the fire and tried to send me in the direction of the huge monastery overlooking the town.

But once I had found the factory, it did not help it didn’t look like a factory at all, I was made very welcome. The monk in charge was still performing his early morning prayers and the factory closed. While waiting the old lady taking care of the place saw it as her duty to feed me as much butter tea as humanly possible. I tried to limit the intake, an hours walk from my hotel through the city I feared that need for (and lack of) privacy that man and Tibetan woman in long dresses can more easily solve…

Once the factory opened I got the full tour. From the storage room, to the office, to the production rooms onto the roof where the brown medicine balls were laid out in the sun to dry. With a staff of only 5 they produce quite a large amount of pills which once packaged in the shiny metallic sachets are distributed and sold in little ‘medical’ shops around town.

I really liked this insight into the practise of Tibetan medicine production and was especially happy to get to meet the monk in charge who radiated calmness and wisdom and put me totally at ease after the mad search for the factory!

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First 4 photos above: the medicine factory in Peyul, last photo a traditional doctors office in Gandze

Freeing the Fish

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The Tibetans in Lhasa do not eat or catch fish, but the Han Chinese population does. The Tibetans instead go to the market to buy the fish to set them free. The whole fishing economy however has gotten a bit out of hand with the Tibetans now by far being the best customers at the fish market and the Han Chinese vendors catering for them by keeping the fish alive in large basins and selling big bags with water and added oxygen so the fish can be kept alive during the transport back to the river. Where some kilometers down river… well, you get the picture.

I have visited Tibet many times, and the more often I went the more interested I became in the country, the people, the Buddhism and above all, all the changes taking place in Tibet. Tibet has in the last 10 years changed from a rather traditional nomadic, agricultural and monastic society into a modern society. How the new and the old interact, collide or in some instances just live in parallel worlds doesn’t cease to fascinate me.

In the book ‘Freeing the Fish, progress and impermanence in modern day Tibet’, I bring together my photography work in Tibet from the last 10 years and I show the changes I saw happening in that period: The rapidly expanding cities and the city life, the new growing monasteries, the life of the nomads and the farmers in a changing environment (climate, mines, dams and resettlements).

The book will have a hard cover, around 220 pages with 140 photo’s of which 50 spreads and some background stories.

‘Freeing the Fish’ is one of the stories included in the book and a nice metaphor of many of the other developments in Tibet as well.

From now on I will keep you updated on the book publishing process. You can already have a peek of the book on my website. If you would like to be added to my mailing list or if you like to pre-order the book please email me or leave a comment on this post.

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

January 11, 2013 at 09:00

Happy 2013!

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I wish you all a very good 2013, with lots of  beautiful photos and good blogs!

Happy New Year

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

January 2, 2013 at 14:01

Merry Christmas!

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Reting monastery (TAR, April 2012)

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

December 25, 2012 at 11:04

Red noodle cups

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The road connecting Yushu to Xining (Qinghai) 

All over Tibet stuff gets thrown out of cars, busses, restaurants, garbage is often even emptied in the rivers.

I hate it, and as littering is so rare in Europe, it always takes me by surprise when someone just throws garbage out of a window. I will make however an exception for the red cups in which the instant noodles are sold. They look so happy in the landscape (if you do not look to closely).

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West Tibet (TAR)

Big Brother in Lhasa

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Lhasa (Near Chakpori hill with CCTV camera looking down on the Linkhor, the pilgrim’s path around the Potala palace and Yokhang temple)

One of the commenters on my photo series on the New York Times Lens blog said that the obvious was missing:

I’m surprised there is no mention of what is obviously missing from this photographic essay. When my family visited Tibet two years ago we were told NEVER to take pictures of the sizable and ubiquitous Chinese military presence. Everywhere we went the Chinese authorities glared at us from rooftops, checkpoints, installations, and their regular units of street patrols. Aiming the camera at them would result in certain confiscation of your device.

That’s an interesting observation but first of all I think a distinction should be made between Lhasa and surroundings (where indeed most the western tourists are going), and the greater Tibetan area including Kham and Amdo in the Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. Until recently the omnipresence of the police, the army and surveillance camera’s was mostly felt in the Tibetan quarter in Lhasa, outside the Tibetan quarter and away from the well-known monasteries, that presence is less obvious and less in your face. This is one of the reasons I prefer visiting these other area’s. But recently the army presence has been stepped up in many places, the amount of army trucks I saw going into the Sichuan area’s of Tibet in February and April of this year was staggering and very worrying.

I am not sure if cameras from tourists are being confiscated, I have only once been asked to wipe some images but that was in the train, no idea why I could not take some silly pictures there, and no one ever threatened to take my gear.

The ways to control the tourists are more subtle than that. Westerners are not allowed to enter the TAR without a special permit and in Lhasa one is not allowed to walk around without a guide. That guide is held responsible for everything the (group of) tourists do. So if a tourist were to take pictures of the army, which nowadays would certainly not be appreciated, that would have an immediate repercussion on the guide, the guide’s organization and the travel agency that brought the tourist to Lhasa. So to protect the travel organization and (Tibetan) guide most people would behave as expected of them.

That combined with the Chinese authorities restricting access and controlling communications in the areas where there is unrest explains the general lack of army pictures.

And with regards to my photos, that is easy: I hold the very simple rule not to shoot people holding a gun. I am simply not that type of photographer. But especially for people interested in security cameras and army trucks I dug up some shots.

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Army convoy passing through a village in Kham (Sichuan) early in the morning

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

December 14, 2012 at 11:00