Phil Borges
 

Exhibition Pieces
Tibetan Portrait
Diane Farris Gallery, 1997

  • Exhibition Pieces


  • Jigme 8, Sonam 18 months

    Jigme and Sonam
    ages 8 and 18 months
    Changtang, Himalayan Highlands

    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Jigme and Sonam are sisters whose nomadic family had just come down from the Himalayan highlands to their winter camp on the Changtang, or Tibetan Plateau, at an altitude of 16,500 feet. When I gave Jigme a Polaroid of herself she looked at it, squealed, and ran into her tent. It must have been the first time she had seen herself since her family did not own a mirror.

    Tenzin Gyatso 59

    Tenzin Gyatso
    age 59, India
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Born to a peasant family, he was discovered to be the reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion at the age of two. At four he was installed as the fourteenth Dalai Lama and then as a teenager he faced the invasion of his country. Eight years later he was forced to flee to neighboring India, where he still lives. Our appointment for this portrait was set for the afternoon on the rooftop of his residence. As he approached, I nervously held out my hand to greet him. He avoided it, stuck his fingers in my ribs, let out his famous laugh, and tickled me.

    Yama 8

    Yama
    age 8
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Yama came with her parents and three sisters on a six-week pilgrimage to the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa from the province of Kham. "Yama helped carry our ten-month-old daughter much of the way," her mother said. "We noticed very early that she was born with the true spirit of wanting to help others."


    Namgyal 13, Thuman 16

    Namgyal and Thuman
    ages 13 and 16, India
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches

    Although Thuman and Namgyal were in a monastery, their parents felt they could get a better education and retain more of their culture if they left Tibet. Like hundreds of children every year, they said good-bye to their parents not knowing if they would ever see them again. They were then smuggled out of Tibet over the Himalayas and into India.


    Samdu 11

    Samdu
    age 11
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Samdu was stricken with a crippling malady known as "big bone disease" when she was five. Even though she does her best to help care for this rapeseed field, she has to be carried everywhere by her friends. This arthritis-like disease, which only afflicts children, is virtually unknown outside her village.


    Dolma 38

    Dolma
    age 38
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches

    Dolma had never seen a westerner up close before. She would reach out, touch my shoulder, then quickly pull her arm back into her chuba and laugh. As a young girl, she escaped across the Tibet-India border with her family after word reached their remote nomad camp that they would be forced to live in a commune.

    Pusang 64, Dundup 32
    Pusang and Dundup
    ages 64 and 32
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Pusang and Dundup are father and son. It was a very cold and windy day in December when I arrived at their nomad camp located at an altitude of 17,000 feet. They had just finished offering prayers prior to sacrificing two yaks for their winter food supply. Everything was so primal, it reminded me of what it might have been like to come across native peoples on the North American plains two hundred years ago.

    Palden 62
    Palden
    age 62, Dharamsala
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Palden was arrested at his monastery in 1959 and spent twenty-four years in prison, where he was tortured frequently. He lost twenty teeth in one beating alone. He managed to flee Tibet in 1987 and came to Dharamsala. He told me, "I no longer have anger for my captors. However, I feel it is my responsibility to let the outside world know what is happening in Tibet."


    Botok 76, Tsangpa 78
    Botok and Tsangpa 78
    ages 76 and 78, Ladakh, India
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Botok and Tsangpa were classified as wealthy by the Communist authorities in 1962 because they owned almost a thousand sheep and goats. Threatened with imprisonment, they fled across the boarder into the Indian district of Ladakh with their three daughters and Tsangpa's other husband. They told me that it is not uncommon for Tibetan women to take more than one husband.
    Dawa 15

    Dawa
    age 15, Drigung Valley, Tibet
    selectively toned silver gelatin print
    23 x 27 inches


    Dawa is a student and the eldest son of a barley farmer. Although responsible for his family's herd of goats, he spends most of his free time reading - especially anything written in Tibetan. He proudly showed me a well-worn copy of an English-Tibetan phrase book that a western traveler had given him two years before.







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