The magazine of the photo-essay
Feb 2017 back issue
Infinite Light A Photographic Meditation on Tibet Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
by Marissa Roth
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This book is my love letter to Tibet. It is the reflection of my inner and outer journeys to this land and a very personal impressionistic view of what it feels like to be in Tibet. It is also a social and political statement and another cry for awareness about what is being irrevocably lost. I had always wanted to go to Tibet and finally ventured there in May of 2007. Like many others, I was familiar with images of Tibet and the vibrant palette of colors and vast clarity of details that are evident due to the region’s dryness and high altitude.
Up until that point, most of my personal photography was in black and white, but in Tibet I chose to photograph with the last of the Kodachrome film. I knew that the deep reds of the monasteries and monks’ and nuns’ robes would sing with this medium, but that the subtle colors of the stones and landscape would be tonally quiet. And, this film rendered the truest photographic black. It is this contradiction and duality that I continually search for and respond to visually, as I believe that they are the seen metaphors for all that exists. Before I left on my journey, I had what I can only describe as a vision, which was to create a linear visual sentence of images that would unfold in a color sequence akin to the colors of Tibetan prayer flags. Nothing like this had ever occurred for me; typically I am reactive to my environment as a starting place for my work. After that first trip, which garnered half of the images for my project, I was almost homesick with longing to return to Tibet. I was scheduled to go in May of 2008, but after the uprising in March of that year, Tibet was off-limits to tourists and I had to postpone my trip. I finally made it back in September of 2010 and completed the photography for what I consider to be this photographic meditation. For the first five months of 2011, I spent countless mornings sequencing the images. Working in a meditative state for an hour or two at a time, I placed the photographs in pairs on tall boards and walked around them over and over again in order to feel how they unfolded visually. When I stumbled on a gap in the sequence, I re-edited all of the film from both trips, searching for an image to bridge the flow of the photographs. This book encompasses that completed sequence.
Crows and halo above Rongbuk Monastery near Mt. Everest base camp. May 2007.
Mural of a snow lion, considered a celestial guardian spirit who protects the Buddha, under an archway at Norbulingka, in Lhasa. May 2007.
Solitary monk who takes care of the Summer Palace of the Panchen Lama, built in 1844. Shigatse, May 2007.
A dawn view over Lhasa River. September 2010.
Pilgrims visit Tashilhunpo Monastery on the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday. May 2007.
Monks’ shadow, as the monks leave the main sanctuary after morning prayers at Ganden Monastery. September 2010.
A gerbera daisy floats in a large vat of water where offerings of small Yuan notes have sunk to the bottom, at Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa. September 2010.
A pilgrim climbs the steps of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. May 2007.
Door leading to the main sanctuary, at a small Bon Monastery. May 2007.
Monk in prayer walks through the chapel of the Tomb of Tsongkhapa, at Ganden Monastery. September 2010.
Monks’ woolen robes are left on prayer benches inside of the main sanctuary at Ganden Monastery. May 2007.
Inside the main prayer sanctuary, at Tsamkhung Nunnery, in Lhasa. May 2007.
Monk standing next to his living quarters at Shalu Monastery. May 2007.
Detail of a wall mural under an arch at the entrance of the 13th Dalai Lama’s summer residence, at Norbulingka, in Lhasa. September 2010.
A view from the balcony overlooking the inner courtyard, at Tsamkhung Nunnery in Lhasa. September 2010.
Attendant monk receives pilgrims at the entrance of a prayer chapel, at Sakya Monastery. May 2007.
Lone monk stands in a doorway leading from the main sanctuary at Sakya Monastery after morning prayers. May 2007.
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Window at Tsamgkung Nunnery looks out onto the courtyard. September 2010.
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