Prayer flags flutter in the breeze throughout Tibet.
Tibet hit Forest McMullin like a bolt out of the blue.
The invitation to participate in “Tibet in Eyes of 100 Photographers” came
as a complete surprise, says McMullin ’77 (photo illustration).
He learned that he had been recommended by the American Society
of Media Photographers to take part in a unique project organized
by the State Council Information Office, China Photographers
Association and Tibet Autonomous Region Information Office.
The offer was exciting, but he had only a few weeks to rearrange
his business – he operates Forest McMullin Photography in
Rochester – and personal commitments. Going meant that
he would miss several important family events.
Tibet ultimately proved irresistible, and on June 24, 2005, McMullin
was on his way to join 50 photographers from 22 countries and
50 photographers from China. After two days of orientation in
Beijing, they headed for Lhasa, capital of Tibet. Divided into
four groups of 25, the photographers traveled the region for
10 days, reaching some extremely remote areas.
“The organizers took us to some specific places,” says
McMullin, “but much of the time we were free to roam. We
weren’t allowed to photograph anything related to the military,
but otherwise we could shoot whatever we wanted.”
McMullin discovered Tibetans to be “sweet, kind, engaging
people” who were quite willing to be photographed – and
thrilled to see themselves on the display of his digital camera.
He visited monasteries and schools, met farmers and pilgrims,
hiked steep mountain paths, drank yak butter tea and heard the
flutter of prayer flags.
At the conclusion of the trip, an exhibit of 1,000 photos from
all of the participants went on display in Beijing. Smaller exhibits
will travel to Chinese embassies around the world. McMullin captured
4,000 images, a selection of which can be viewed at http://mcmullinphoto.com/gallery/tibetstories/ and
|The head monk at Mindroling Monastery near
Dranang, Tibet. Photo by Forest McMullin '77.
“As a photographer, what struck me first was the quality
of light,” says McMullin. But the experience took on deeper
significance through his encounters with the people, the land
and the culture. He’s hoping to return.
“In retrospect, I realize I was actually scouting story ideas.
Now I have a list of stories I want to tell. I would love for this
to be the first of many trips I take to Tibet.”
For more information about McMullin’s work, visit www.mcmullinphoto.com.
|Three monks hurry to noontime devotions
at the Drepung Monastery.
Download the PDF version of this story.