Back to Archive
The Tibetan Photo Project, Culture Preserved Through the Lens


TPP- We have to stay clear of asking for material. What we want, is when an article such as this is inspired and generated by The Tibetan Photo Project, people need to hear that China's government has killed 1/6 of the Tibetan population and that right up until today, as you read this, China is actively pursuing a policy of cultural genocide against the Tibetans. That is how this effort does its job. People understanding that Western consumers and Western investing are making much of this horror possible is important knowledge. Also, for the West, Tibet's experience with China's government should serve as a warning for those rushing to do business with the Chinese government as a partner.


For us, it was a significant personal investment to take on the financial role of producer for Wangden's film "Voices in Exile." We could have waited and tried to round up a collection of investors, but then we would still be waiting for his film so we put up the money. Its tiny by movie standards, but huge by my personal finances and we had to stay out of his way when it came to content. He was producing magical stills, but shooting an entire movie is a whole different thing, but, except for occasionally bugging him about deadlines, which we have learned is not a big concern for Tibetans, we left him alone.


If you want a real pressure cooker story, Centenary College, when they took on The Tibetan Photo Project exhibit, got a $50K grant from the Louisiana endowment for the arts and they decided that they could help take this movie in their film department by bringing Wangden to Louisiana to work on the editing. Wow, we all thought what a great opportunity... they had $100K editing programs and skilled help etc.  It just did not fit Wangden's nature. And some folks really wanted to have a finished film when the Endowment folks came to the premiere screening. I went to Louisiana and had to get in the middle of it all, I knew in the end that the film had to be made Wangden's way, other people wanted a trophy.  Fortunately I have past experience with filmmakers who don't make the first deadline, we made a very special presentation out of the "Work in progress" with all the right thank you credits and everyone went home happy... Well almost everyone.  But everyone that needed to be happy was happy. Wangden returned to India and finished his film with the editing tools he knew on the computer we bought him and the film has received great reviews.


Sazzy and I don't distance ourselves from the work we get at all. We feel so privileged to be able to get this work and to present it and to organize it. We wish a few more people would get how important this is and open their wallets.


Meanwhile, we are working on a film from our perspective. "Visually and Respectfully Yours - The Story of The Tibetan Photo Project" will be told by us and released on Nov. 4.

PC-  The way in which the work has grown has exposed you to a darker side of human nature, the desire to dominate and control, as represented by the actions of the Government of China.  One of the interesting aspects of the photos is the degree of happiness that we can see in many of the pictures of people coping with that repression.  Have you found inspiration in the resilience of those with whom you collaborate?

TPP- We already knew about the darker side of human nature. We all have talents and what we were looking for was simply a way to use what we new how to do to add something constructive.

Are the Tibetans inspirational? Absolutely, every single one of them.  Not just for their stance regarding China's government, but for their very nature. There is so much to be learned here. If there is anything that is really frustrating for me is that across the board, more people could learn so much that they could apply to their own communities and families and the West seems to be moving away from its own humanity. The world cannot afford to loose the spirit of the Tibetan people. If we loose them, we really lose our own humanity.

PC- What have we not discussed that you would like to discuss?  What’s next for the project?

TPP- We will wrap up "Visually and Respectfully Yours -The Story of The Tibetan Photo Project" and we will use that release to swing into the next goal for the project which is to create The Tibetan Photo Project Filmmaker Education Center in India. This is a modest goal, to create a documentary learning center or two in India. We have met the right Tibetans who could hold this together from the positions of teaching, talent and business. Ultimately, this is the legacy we want to leave and we want it to be completely Tibetan so they can continue to show the world what we need to know.


Per Contra Visual Arts - Fall 2006