Many books have been published on the high altitude snow kingdom of Ladakh, but few as wonderful as this new tome by photographer David Vaala, whose 5 year immersion has yielded gold. Vaala writes in the introduction that the book is intended to ‘celebrate Ladakh as a repository for Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture where elsewhere in the world both are changing.’ He’s done a fine job in achieving that intention: the book excels in its depiction of religious-drama plays at the great monastic festivals like Tsechu, Tse Dhup and Nagrang.
From his wide landscapes depicting a line of sheep bisecting a winter landscape, to a monotone barley covered field during the short summer, these evocative images conjure up this extraordinary land. His portraits, in particular, capture the beauty and vitality of the Ladakhi people, and some of the most genuine smiles on earth.
‘Ladakh seduced me twice’ Varela explains. ‘First it’s fabled inaccessibility and it’s ‘Tibetanness’ drew me to take its measure on foot and pony. Then, the people I met and the friendships I made drew me back over the years to keep photographing and to imagine how Ladakh might have been centuries ago: a cosmopolitan mix of traders, dialects, beliefs, and traditions, all stretching back more than a thousand years….
Over the course of nearly a decade, I made many friends and traveled further and deeper, Through built up trust and relationships, I gained special permissions to photography individual cham dancers in a studio setting where I had some control over the lighting conditions…. Making portraits of the many wonderful people from all corners of Ladakh was a natural follow-on.’
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd (US) (28 Mar 2013)