Marieke ten Wolde's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Nomads

Let me take your picture!

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Tibetan families albums, you would expect they exist, but I have met many families and stayed in many houses and still I saw very few pictures that were over 5 years old.

Of course there is the occasional picture that the foreign tourist has sent and the many pictures of lama’s, monks, religious objects and monasteries. These are often pinned to a wooden pillar in the house or taped to the wall. I never saw a family album, wedding pictures or anything like that. It seems that photography for the normal Tibetan only started in the digital era, or that they simply do not care much for pictures. Now, very similar to what we see in our part of the world, there are tons of mobile phone pictures and bad snapshots of people in front of something supposedly interesting. And it seems that almost 90% of the time people feel the urge to make the victory sign as soon as the camera is pointed at them.

However I also noticed that the pilgrims visiting Lhasa had their picture taken. In Lhasa there are some photo studios with fancy backdrops of mountains, monasteries, the Potala (the Dalai Lama’s palace), a waterfall or something with a similar attractiveness. Sometimes these studios would even provide a set of traditional clothing. But the most interesting I found the photographers in front of the Yokhang (the main Buddhist temple in the center of Lhasa).

Up till a few years ago many Tibetan pilgrims had their picture taken there, and for a long time this was all analogue. I really liked the creativity of the photographers and I asked them to take a picture of my friend. We first had to choose the frame for the picture, she insisted on the heart shape. It was indeed ‘fast taring a picture – fast developing a piece of film‘ because only 2 hours later we could pickup the result: she received the picture, I the negative neatly folded in a little envelope made of old newspaper.

This experience would suggest there must exist more photos than I have seen. So I remain curious about the family albums Tibetan families might have of their daily life, their celebrations (in Tibet) etc. So if there is anybody that could help me with this, or could point me to some more results (like the one below), please let me know!


Tibet Travel log 11: What to bring to Tibet

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Warm clothing, sunscreen, a hat, sleeping bag ….., there are a lot essential items to pack for a trip to Tibet, and many long list on what-to-bring can be found on the Internet. But on top of the pack list, travelers often have the urge to bring something for the ’locals’.

The funniest example I encountered was an elderly lady who brought bright white tissues with her. Wherever we stopped she started wiping runny noses and with Tibetan nomad kids seemingly appearing out of nowhere there were a lot of very dirty snotty noses to wipe. Luckily she had an almost limitless amount of tissues and she was so motherly and nice that everybody was smiling when she tried to teach them how to blow their noses. She was not very successful though.

I have seen people hand out money or sweets, which only made kids greedy and turned them into persistent little beggars. That is definitely not the right thing to do.

So what should you bring? For a while I brought sweets with vitamin C. When the diet in Tibet improved and the urgent need for vitamin C disappeared, I brought balloons. They require only little space and provide lots of fun.

But during my last trip, by coincidence, I really had the right thing in my bag. When I took pictures of this old nomad couple and wanted to show them the result, the man did not even bother looking at the camera, his eyes were too bad. But with my spare reading glasses, he could and his eyes lighted up. So I made him very happy. He did not mind or even notice, but next time I will also take some pairs without pink flowers!

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

October 19, 2012 at 09:50

Tibet Travel log 4, The entrance gate

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April 2012, Tagong

These ladies ask the (mainly Chinese) tourists quite aggressively 10Y for passing the gate onto their land that has a nice view on the golden temple. This is a commercial attitude I have not often seen in Tibetans, certainly not Tibetan woman. And although I do not like to pay for standing in a field, I think it is rather funny and it fuels the hope that the Tibetans are catching up with the Chinese in commercial business sense. The few Chinese tourists that come to Tagong in April at least seem to have no issue with this approach whilst the one other ‘foreigner’ that is there at the same time with me prefers to walk to the next hill to avoid paying. The westerner is annoyed as this spoils his preconception of the peaceful laid back Tibetan.

It is early in the tourist season, at this time of the year it is mostly young Chinese that are walking, cycling, hitch hiking to Lhasa some 2000 km and a few days (by car) away coming to Tagong. They are travelling by themselves or in small groups as they say ‘to get to know their country’. They all see Tibet is an integral part of China. Some have met foreigners that told them differently and they clearly think that is a laughable misconception of some misinformed foreigners that do not know about China.

Most of these Chinese backpackers show a true interest in and respect for Tibetans, the culture and the religion. It is good to see that they are genuinely interested and try to understand the place, not just treating Tibet as a giant open air museum like most of the tour groups do. Some are even mildly critical about the enormous amounts of army trucks passing through Tagong on a daily basis heading further into Tibet.
These kids are well educated, relatively wealthy and I hope that once this generation comes to power there will be more understanding that will result in changes in the attitude and policies with regards to Tibet.

First attempt to some content…

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A first picture from the last trip to Tibet in May/June 2011.

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

August 19, 2011 at 17:18