With their tents rolled up in bundles and lashed to the backs of yaks as they move across the grasslands, Tibetan nomads, known in Tibetan as drokpa, offer a rare perspective on life. Their world operates on a rhythm completely different from the one to which we are accustomed. Nomads' lives are tuned to the growth of grass, the births of animals and the movement of their herds. Like many people living close to nature, they developed a close connection to the land and the livestock that nurture them. For thousands of years they survived by raising animals. However, they didn't merely eke out a living; they created a unique culture and were part of a remarkable civilization that was the most powerful empire in Asia over 1,300 years ago. Today, their way of life is threatened as economic and political changes sweep the Tibetan steppes.
Nomads continue to fascinate many people. Moving across the grasslands with their animals, their home a tent, nomads evoke freedom. Their world cherishes mobility and the liberty to roam in search of grass and water. Nomads are constantly exposed to the elements of nature -- rain, snowstorms, and drought; they take these events for granted and face them with remarkable equanimity. Values that humankind admires -- courage, integrity, generosity -- are principles instinctive to nomads. They also have an intimate knowledge of their environment and an amazing ability to handle animals -- a skill rare among most people today. Despite these admirable traits, nomads are facing serious threats throughout the world.
I first started working with Tibetan nomads in Nepal in 1975 and since then I have had the opportunity to work with nomads throughout Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and across the Tibetan areas of what is now the Peoples' Republic of China. The photographs in this exhibition of nomads in Tibet provides a visual record of a remarkable people who still make their living raising livestock in one of the harshest environments on earth. As such, these images serve as a documentary on Tibetan nomads and their vanishing way of life, adding to our understanding of a sublime landscape and an extraordinary culture.
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