Phil Borges | Tibetan Portrait

Diane Farris Gallery, 1997
Vancouver, BC

In 1994 I traveled to Tibet as well as northern India and Nepal to interview and photograph Tibetans and Tibetan refugees in an effort to understand what happened to them, to their country and their culture. These are some of the people I met in this deeply spiritual culture—everyone from the nomads of the remote Himalayas to the Dalai Lama himself—each committed to their unique Tibetan culture and to the practice of compassion in the face of aggression. Phil Borges

 

Sisi & Norsum
ages 8, Parka, Tibet
selectively toned silver gelatin print
23 x 27 inches

Sisi and Norsum had just stayed up most of the night trying to save a premature baby goat. Unfortunately the goat died and they still had the early morning responsibility for the care and irrigation of this rapeseed field. Even with the extremely short season at an altitude of 12,500 ft their families are able to farm highland barley, beans, corn and rice.

 

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
age 8
selectively toned silver gelatin print
23 x 27 inches
Edition SOLD OUT

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 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
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
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.

 

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 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
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.

 

 

Contact us at 604-737-2629 or art@dianefarrisgallery.com for pricing and availability of these and other works by Phil Borges. Phil Borges’ book Tibetan Portrait: The Power of Compassion (1996) is availalbe through Amazon.

This entry was posted in DFG Exhibits, Phil Borges Exhibitions. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*