Good news for the Restored Voice Project: I have access to some lovely portraits and images of the Tibetan women of Dharamsala. This means the Kickstarter will launch sooner than expected: September 30th!
Wonderlane, A.K.A. Photographer Libre, has taken beautiful, evocative shots all around the world – including many from Seattle… it all seems to lead back to that place! – and has an extensive collection of Tibetan nuns at Dolma Ling nunnery. I’m always thrilled to discover their smiling faces, and in this case, I really needed some help. January rapidly approaches, and the Kickstarter needs to launch. However ready I may be, I know that I need images of these awe-inspiring ladies to really make this project tangible. But I’ve never been to Dharamsala to take my own media. Photographer Libre – aptly named – is happy to share her photos with me for the informational Kickstarter video, so that I can show the nuns themselves. A video just of me would not be as powerful, because this isn’t really my book. It’s theirs. And I hope to feature photography in the book.
I would like to take this moment to thank Wonderlane publicly. Her work is already exquisite, but it’s made all the more beautiful by her willingness to share and help other artists realize their goals – and, specifically with RVP, to help a project that seeks to share, empower, and spread the word to the world. Kudos, Wonderlane! All of you should definitely check out her site: here is it again. I think a copy of the finished book will magically appear in her mailbox someday…
Not only has Wonderlane graciously offered her photos to help launch the project, but she also taught me something highly valuable: Tibetans consider images of their sacred rites and initiations to also be blessed. The images are not the same as any other picture – if they are to be disposed of, the proper way is to burn them, so that the spirit is released to the sky. Or, they can be dropped at a stupa (Tibetan temples, bell-shaped and gorgeous), monastery, or nunnery, and the Tibetans there will perform the appropriate rites for you.
It is strange to think that simply by being present somewhere with a piece of technology, we can – snap! – immortalize the moment and the individuals making it possible. This is absolutely brilliant, in terms of sharing this big, full world with each other, and in terms of cataloging our histories. However, pictures and images don’t always mean the same thing to each culture, and there is a conundrum in the “ownership” or “possession” of a picture of a person, or their life. While it’s true that the photographer took the image (“took” being a very appropriate word), it is also true that the subject presented the real material. That nature, or an individual, or a group created something, something the photographer decided was valuable.
In this digital age of endless, countless, limitless photos, I really connect with this ideal, and out of respect for Tibetans, I will be sure to carry out this practice throughout the remainder of my life. I hope that you do the same, if a blessed image ever comes into your possession.
So, everyone, get ready! The Kickstarter is going to launch soon – ten days! I’m buying my plane ticket within the week, and arrangements are already being made in Dharamsala for my stay. It’s starting to feel real, everyone. Spread the word!