Refugee Status. A Documentary Project for Tibet

Tibetan refugees, India, Tibet, Documentary Photographer, Current Affairs, Culture

“Being clear about what we’re doing and why is the first step in doing it better. If you’re not happy about the honest answer to this question, make substantial changes until you are.” Seth Godin. Jan 15, 2013

Not a day goes by when I don’t have the extreme privilege of hearing stories of young Tibetans fleeing the Chinese government’s occupation of their land. The stories are shocking, filled with bravery, a fight for freedom and many times, end in tragedy.  Just today, a friend of mine told me his story of crossing the Himalayan Mountains (as they all do in order to get to India). He told me of being captured by the Chinese government the first 3 times he tried to escape, put in prison and then returned him to his home. The fourth and final time, he travelled for multiple weeks over the mountains, with some dying along the way. Food runs out, the temperatures are freezing, there are unmarked paths with dangerous cliffs. One young man fell to his death during their journey.

I want to help. This has inspired me to start a documentary project of these young adults, coming from Tibet, as refugees, holding on to their culture, learning for the first time about their country’s history (as it is mostly banned in Tibet to learn of their own history), all the while trying to embrace their new surroundings in India, separated from their families and from the way of life they’re accustomed to. A beautiful mixture of tradition and modern appeals. Starting a new life…. with “Refugee Status”.

This is the first image of the series.

(Sengye, shown above, is a young Tibetan man from the Amdo region of Tibet. He wears a traditional fur hat and necklace, identifying him as Amdo. He was raised in a nomadic family (as most are in that region), breeding yaks, sheeps and goats. He fled Tibet on the same night of his father’s return from being imprisoned by the Chinese government for 14 years. They didn’t see each other.)

Please feel free to share your thoughts, input and comments.

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  1. Paula – I have no words – only tears in my eyes. My heart hurts.

    I am so blessed to get a glimpse of the world through your eyes.

    What a beautiful young man.

  2. Such a beautiful image, Paula. I’m looking forward to seeing more like it and hearing more stories.

  3. Paula, thank you for telling their stories, the stories that need to be told to the world. And thank you for sharing your gift with us. I’m blessed to get to hear these. If you can think of any tangible ways we can help from here, please let me know. Xo.

    1. Thank you so much Andrea. I just so appreciate you and your support and encouraging words. It makes this easier, I assure you. The only tangible thing I can think of right now, in the immediacy is continual prayer for the Tibetans and sharing the imagery. Feel free to copy, use social media avenues, and share with anyone and everyone. The hope is to get the word out and speak for justice.

  4. Oh, Paula, what you are doing and showing is so very important. So many of us are insulated from the realities that exist for so many in so many parts of the world. I am grateful for your lens, both literally and figuratively, as an artist, as a technician, as a woman led by your heart and by the love inherent in you, which all allow you to share these vitally significant stories in such an impactful and exquisite way. Thank you. I look forward to seeing more.

    1. Wow wow wow Becky. You certainly have a way with words that makes a girl blush. I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement. Please know it means the world to me. Sometimes “one” (okay, “I”) can easily feel isolated from my creative community being so far away from my comfort zone, so hearing that the message is not only being received but appreciated and causing others to contemplate the impact is exactly what I strive for. Please feel free to share the image, blog it, tweet it, pin it, etc. Getting the word out would be a beautiful thing!

    1. ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེ་། Tashi!! I’m excited to continue with the series as well! It’s been such a beautiful learning experience of the Tibetan culture while starting this project too. I’m so appreciative for that!

  5. Great picture (as always) Paula. Love your heart and your photos. I also like the Seth Godin quote (I’ve just been exposed to his work for the first time and love it).

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