Perspectives on Dharamshala Life

By Tammy Winand  /  February 12, 2013;

me india 2015 (3)I have loved photography for as long as I can remember. I’ve also had a passion for foreign cultures, language, and travel since junior high school. It seems natural that at some point the two became intertwined.

I arrived in India in autumn 2009, in McLeod Ganj at the end of November that year. The hundreds of photos I took were, in part, a way for me to record and process things I was experiencing. The lifestyle and mindset seemed radically different from anything I’d ever witnessed. My photos were a doorway into what felt like another dimension.

Later, as I posted images on social media and talked to family and friends in the United States, I realised my photos were also gateways for them. Most had never travelled, especially internationally, and had no idea what life was like outside their own sphere of influence. The visual connection seemed to work better than words, not least because looking at photos is much faster than reading long descriptive passages.

At first my images from McleodGanj were mostly related to Tibetan activism. Over time, and three long stays in Dhasa plus trips to other Tibetan settlements in India and Nepal, they became more “cultural documentary”. I expanded from covering mainly Tibetan issues to the greater “Himalayan region”. I am fascinated by cultural differences, but also by the similarities. I enjoy capturing the everyday moments of local life, whether is at a religious ceremony, a community event, or simply in the streets.

Now I live here: I plan to stay! Here are some of my pictures – I feel that my pictures tell my story better than words.

Tibetan elder at candlelight vigil for self immolator Tsewang in 2010 (Copy)

This woman is lighting a candle at a vigil for Tsewang, one of the first Tibetans who self-immolated in 2010. I took this to illustrate the solidarity of Tibetans in exile with those inside Tibet, as well as their religious devotion.

Tibetan woman with prayer wheel (Copy)

I feel this picture of a woman holding a traditional prayer wheel depicts how the culture’s religious rituals permeate every aspect of daily life.

elder monk outside Xbox video game shop watching large screen (Copy)

I felt this scene captured the juxtaposition of tradition with modern westernisation in the exile community here in McLeod Ganj.

Khampa pilgrims prostrating Tsuglakhang (Copy)

These Tibetan pilgrims are prostrating to the Sakyamuni Buddha statue at Tsug-la-Khang, the Dalai Lama’s temple in McLeod Ganj and I took the picture to depict their religious traditions and devotion.

Kirti monastery monks protesting self immolations (Copy)

Monks from Kirti Monastery in McleodGanj at a protest following the self-immolation of a monk from Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, Amdo in Tibet, which is the location of the original Kirti Monastery. I think this image illustrates the frustration and despair of those who must stand by and watch.

monk in sunbeam Jogibara Road Upper daily life McleodGanj (Copy)

The main market in McleodGanj. For me this image represents the juxtaposition of the spiritual and mundane aspects of local Tibetan life.

performers at International Human Rights Day (Copy)

These young Tibetan women in traditional costume are waiting to perform at the International Human Rights Day event commemorating the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Peace Prize. I took this image to show how young Tibetan people are carrying on cultural traditions in the exile community.

Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay with Penpa Tsering and Rinpoche at IHRD (Copy)

This picture is to represent the great strides the Tibetan exile community has made to form a viable administrative and government system. Here, Sikyong (Prime Minister), Lobsang Sangay, head of the Central Tibetan Administration exile government, is shown at the ceremony for International Human Rights Day in Tsug-la-Khang. Speaker Penpa Tsering is on his right.

Sojong vow renewal cefremony November 2015 (1) (Copy)

These Tibetan nuns are renewing their religious vows at a Sojong ceremony. I took this photo to show the devotion of many young members of the monastic community in exile.






























I put together this collage of images taken at various Tibetan exile community social activism events between 2009-2011 to show how the exile community remembers their identity and independence.

I put together this collage of images taken at various Tibetan exile community social activism events between 2009-2011 to show how the exile community remembers their identity and independence.


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Tammy Winand Photography

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