Tag: Tibet

MSM: The White Monkey Fortress

VOLUME #1: Mini Story Monday - The White Monkey Fortress of Drakar Tredzong

This Monday I’m excited to kick off what I’m calling Mini Story Monday.  The simple goal of MSM is to tell a story in just a few short paragraphs – an ongoing attempt to break down any story to it’s bare essentials.  Telling better stories requires telling stories.  And that’s my aim

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In early 2010 while doing a scouting trip for Plateau Photo Tours, my business partner Jamin, a Tibetan buddy, and myself all set out to do some research on a rarely visited remote monastery called Drakar Tredzong – The White Monkey Fortress.  Drakar Tredzong is seldom visited by foreigners.  It has a few things going against it – remote location, proximity to historic bird flu outbreaks, and certain periods of hostility with the local government(s) have all worked together to make sure The Monkey Fortress remains somewhat a mystery location.

We arrived at the monastery right before sundown with plans to stay the night.  As we wandered the monastery, we were invited to grab a cup of milk tea with the lead monk.  He told us the story of how the monastery received it’s name – once abundant monkeys used to roam the once abundant forests. “Sometimes on a warm day you can still hear the monkeys up in the rocks!  We think the monkeys were brought from Darjeeling, India,”  He said. As we pressed him on these facts, he gave us a good belly laugh and said, “I don’t really that there are monkeys here, but that’s okay.”  Tibet’s history is litered stories of monkeys in places monkeys shouldn’t be.  Thus is the paradox of the Tibetan Plateau.

As night began to fall and our conversation with the monk began to come to a close, we decided to look for a place to stay the night.  Then, a local government appointed “police officer” appeared (per usual in remote places like this),  worried by the presence of foreigners.  At first, we could stay.  ”Thanks for visiting this place!  Isn’t it amazing, isn’t it?” said the police officer.  Then, as he thought it through, he wanted us to leave.  Two minutes later, we were allowed to stay again.  Later we had to write down our names and passport numbers. I scribbled down my information.  My E’s and R’s were backwards.  My B looked like a 3.  My 9′s looked like 8′s and my 4′s looked like Korean script.  Finally we were required to leave.  The police from the local township were already on their way to investigate us.

We met the police after two hours of driving on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere.  They took our passports and required us to follow them to the local police station.  At the police station we were immediately berated by a 5′ 2″ police chief who brandished an empty 22′ revolver as a show of force and as an offsetting factor to being so short.  The absurdity of it all made me laugh out loud – an action that undoubtedly added to the length and intensity of the ordeal.  The officer yelled at us for over two hours while his subordinates failed to match his intensity – sneaking smiles and laughs behind his back.  They’d obviously seen this act before.

In the end we were required to write down our information again – B’s, 3′s, 8′s and Korean, and asked to leave the area in the morning, as a courtesy and “for our own safety.”

 

 

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2012 IN REVIEW…kinda

A non-sequential, non-sensical review of 2012...

2012 was a long year. 366 days I’m told.  That extra day seemed a lot longer than a day, yeah?

I’m glad to see it end and eagerly looking forward to what 2013 has in store .  Nonetheless, here is a non-sensical, non-sequential, non-thought-out bunch of images from my 2012.  I literally went through month for month and posted the first one that caught my eye.  That’s the extent that I thought about this.  It’s amazing – and exhausting to scroll through a years worth of work (t’s more of an exercise to see everything you’ve done).

This really only covers a very small portion of my year up to September of 2012 – you’ll see why come Monday (stay tuned).

 

Hope you guys have a great 2013!

 

           

 

 

 

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3 of 3: People

Part 3 of 3: Images from HuZhu, QingHai country side. In the mountains with culturally confusing monks.

I’m continuing with a three part series on a trip I recently took to the QingHai country side of western China.  You can check out parts 1 and 2 here:  Light & Shadows & Colors & Shapes.  For some backstory, see below:

Last month I visited GonLung Jampaling Monastery in HuZhu county, QingHai, western China.  HuZhu is one of the hidden treasures of western China because of it’s vast and varied minority mix – Mongolia, Tibetan, Muslim, Han.  Just to give you an idea of how confusing things can get in HuZhu, the location we visited was a Tibetan Buddhist monastery composed almost entirely of ethnic Mongolians who spoke Chinese.  Tibetan Mongolian Chinese speakers whose cousins are probably Muslims.  Yeah, exactly.

 

One thing I’d say to anyone interested in culturally-based photographic fields (travel, humanitarian, storytelling, NGO) is this – Don’t miss the people.  Please don’t miss the people.  I truly believe if we miss the people we’ve missed out on 99% of the reward that comes from travelling.  As a story teller a human experience is almost always the crux of a story.  That interaction, respect, and experience is necessary to understanding the story.

Miss the people, miss the stories.  

But it’s so much more than telling compelling stories.  The people we meet and interact with while travelling will be what we remember most when looking back on our time in a new place or culture – that has overwhelmingly been my experience.  Folks that we get to take out for workshops and tours almost always come away deeply touched by a human interaction, remembering it much more than any photo instruction we could have given them.  The human interactions, the stories, and the cultural exchanges I’ve had over the years have made a huge impact on my life, all for the positive, and it’s something that I hope people who travel can experience as well.

Make it a point to engage people when you travel.  It can be hard, but there are great resources available for those who are interested.  I can’t recommend enough that you take a look at the following list of people and organizations.  They are by far and away the best in the industry at valuing people and their stories.  Beyond that, they are all fantastic photographers – which is not surprising.

 

 

Other Photographers…all smarter than me, better than me, & worth listening to:

 

This is not the post I really meant to write today, but I feel it’s an important message and one that I’m obviously passionate about. Forgive me for my ‘preachiness.’  I’m just a really big fan of the peoples and cultures – understanding and respecting them.

I hope you guys enjoy the images!

 

Like all lists, there is no way to make a comprehensive one. Initially the list above was just a hand full of photographers I’ve worked with or knew personally – knew their hearts and their heads and their work.  If’ I’m going to recommend people to you, I’d like to do it faithfully.  If you know of someone that deserves to be on this list, by all means, add them in the comments below and tell us all why and how they are great at focusing on people.  We need more photographers who value people and cultures.  A person or group not being on this list is by no means intended to be a conscious or deliberate dismissal of their work or character. As always, add to the conversation below!

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2 of 3: Colors & Shapes

Part 2 of 3: Images from HuZhu, QingHai country side. In the mountains with culturally confusing monks.

I continue to have a great time catching up on the last few months of much-needed editing.  Lot’s done.  Lot’s more to go.  I posted the first part of my series here, called Light & Shadows. Part two is appropriately called ‘Colors & Shapes.’  Just to give you a heads up, here is what’s going on with this series:

Last month I visited GonLung Jampaling Monastery in HuZhu county, QingHai, western China.  HuZhu is one of the hidden treasures of western China because of it’s vast and varied minority mix – Mongolia, Tibetan, Muslim, Han.  Just to give you an idea of how confusing things can get in HuZhu, the location we visited was a Tibetan Buddhist monastery composed almost entirely of ethnic Mongolians who spoke Chinese.  Tibetan Mongolian Chinese speakers whose cousins are probably Muslims.  Yeah, exactly.

Part two is meant to stand in strong contrast to Light & Shadows.  One of the interesting things that always stands out to me when visiting these monasteries is how and where the light falls  - through open doors into unlit rooms, underneath the draped prayer flag canopies, and down high alleyways.  Natures light modifiers!  The day that we visited was totally overcast causing just about everything with even a hint of color to vibrantly pop out against the gray background.  I wish you guys could have been there with me, it was so much fun!  Next time, right?

As always, I sincerely hope you guys enjoy the images.

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1 of 3: Light & Shadows

Part 1 of 3: Images from HuZhu, QingHai country side. In the mountains with culturally confusing monks.

Two months worth of back editing continues. Last month I visited GonLung Jampaling Monastery in HuZhu county, QingHai, western China.  HuZhu is one of the hidden treasures of western China because of it’s vast and varied minority mix – Mongolia, Tibetan, Muslim, Han.  Just to give you an idea of how confusing things can get in HuZhu, the location we visited was a Tibetan Buddhist monastery composed almost entirely of ethnic Mongolians who spoke Chinese.  Tibetan Mongolian Chinese speakers whose cousins are probably Muslims.  Yeah, exactly.

Nonetheless, my good friend Jamin and I spent the entire afternoon in the foothills exploring monasteries and temples while visiting and chatting with the local monks.  HuZhu is amazing and strongly reminds me of Rocky Mountain National Park – but higher, more rural, more Tibetan, and colder.  It’s a great place to visit.

I’ve broken up my images into three different sections that I will post on in the coming days.  I tried to squeeze them all into one post, but things just got horribly long winded and confusing.  Be sure to click on the “VIEW SLIDESHOW” button to see all of the images – only a few are posted.  

I sincerely hope you guys enjoy the images.

 

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