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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Beyond Tibet: Serindia Gallery has its third exhibition since July with photography by Luke Duggleby

November 23, 2009

The explosion in the number of photography
exhibitions in Bangkok this year continues at
Serindia with the gallery's third show since
opening its doors in July, this time featuring
British-born photo-journalist Luke Duggleby's
"Tibet Outside Tibet", covering a subject at the core of Serindia's philosophy.
The Bankok Post
November 19, 2009

Songpan Country

The photographs have been taken since Luke first
ventured to the Himalayan region in 1999 and, as
the title suggests, predominately consist of the
areas surrounding Tibet including India, Nepal,
Bhutan, Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu where
Tibetan culture is alive and strong.

Many of the prints have appeared separately in
some of the world's most influential newspapers
and magazines. Despite this dissection between
many publications, they retain a collective
cohesiveness, and one is immediately impressed by
the oeuvre upon entering the space.

Luke presents a cogent thesis documenting many
aspects of the majestic landscape and complex
culture of the Tibetan people, ranging from
pilgrimages to collecting caterpillar fungus and
working on ancient salt terraces. His work,
however, is far superior to simple documentation;
through his use of a range of techniques he often
allows the already glorious subject to gleam.

In Songpan Country (2003), for example, of
Tibetan horsemen riding before a forest rising up
behind them, Luke manages not only to incorporate
a vanishing point much in the same way as a
landscape painter would, he frames it within a
whitish halo as the sunshine is refracted by the
wispy mist. In Dongwang Valley (2003) the use of
depth of field with the blurred back and
foreground focuses the eye on the crawling fungus
collector with exceptional deftness.

Tibetan Catholics

He also demonstrates the ability to capture the
moment such as in Yanjing (2005), of a Tibetan
girl pouring brine gracefully onto her family's
terrace. Of course, such a photographer is more
than capable of producing outstanding portraiture
and landscapes as evinced by several of the other pieces on show.

His use of shadow to obliquely separate several
of his subjects is also masterful, and it is in
his use of shadow that Luke, who does not
consider himself an artist, produces the one work
that could be called art. Deqin County (2003), of
a solitary monk sitting in a small pool of light
in the middle of a dark ocean, was highly
commended in the Iconic category of the Travel
Photographer of the Year Competition, 2006, and deservedly so.

But what is it about this one picture that makes
it "Fine Art", while the others remain reportage,
no matter how dexterously Luke manages to point his lens?

Art by definition must go beyond merely
reproducing the subject. It must be injected with
a quality of the artist's own interpretation that
gives the subject new meaning. Photography, a
mechanical process, makes it that much harder for
the photographer to become an artist or to
produce art exactly because it excels at representation.

Deqin County, by virtue of its composition - the
balance of light and dark, the harmony of colour
with various tones of red and orange, the
arrangement of the vertical cracks in the wood
lining the floor and wall, and the fall of the
shadow in front of the monk as though he is
meditating on something other than the scripture
in his hands - draws out the depth of character
of both the monk and the monastery.

Deqin Country

In short, he has created something far more
pleasurable in this one image than all the others combined.

The other piece that approaches this in
empathetic quality is of a church in Cizhong
built in 1865 titled Tibetan Catholics. However,
while the composition is simple and superb, the
cropping is not. The image would be far more
effective without the mountain ridge line at the top.

Luke makes his worst errors with Yanjing (2005),
of a Tibetan receiving the Body of Christ at a
church in Tsakalho in which the left side of the
face is disfigured with a blown highlight; and in
Dzongchen and Tashi Monasteries (2004), the
subject, a monk reading scripture in a forest,
has an eye blocked by foliage. While the rest of
these two images are eloquent, these defects
alone should have precluded them from display.

These faults are perhaps understandable as Luke
is still young, only 32, and has many years ahead
of him to perfect his craft, and maybe perfect his art too.

Serindia Gallery is an offshoot of Serindia
Publications that produces a range of exceptional
hardcover books primarily on the Himalayas.
Serindia's next event features the photography of
John Wehrheim and launch of his book Taylor Camp,
which chronicles the Woodstock generation
from1969 to 1977, opening on December 15.

Luke Duggleby's 'Tibet Outside Tibet' will be on
display until December 6 at Serindia Gallery, OP
Garden, Charoen Krung Soi 36 (near Oriental Boat
Pier 1). Open Daily 11am to 8pm (except Monday).
Call 02-238-6410 or visit http://www.serindiagallery.com.

RSearch: Tibet Outside Tibet, Luke Duggleby
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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