Phil Borges | The Birth and Evolution of TIBET A Culture on the Edge

Due to the popularity of Phil Borges’ TIBET: Culture on the Edge we are extending the online exhibition to November 6th, 2011.  In addition to the post below by Phil Borges more online features will be added this week.  Keep watching our blog to find out more about Phil and his current projects.

The Birth and Evolution of TIBET A Culture on the Edge

By Phil Borges

The idea for the second book on Tibet came quite by accident. In 2009 I had traveled to Lhasa to document the work of the US based organization OneHeart that was working to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality on the Tibetan Plateau. Unfortunately, because of the riots that had taken place in Tibet just before the 2008 Olympics, China decided to shut down all foreign non-profit organizations in Tibet. I arrived and soon learned I had nothing to do! Since I was already there I decided to take a trek I had always wanted to do so I hired a guide and a couple of yaks and headed out. Almost three years later I have a book in my hands!

Click image to view details of the book on Amazon

The typical way I work when producing a book is to choose an issue I feel strongly about then find an organization (usually an NGO) that is aligned with the same interests and partner with them to collect the content necessary for the book. The partnership is not only valuable in helping to cover the costs of travel but in providing access to the subjects I’m illustrating. After we have collected the images and text I usually shop the content and theme of the book as a package around to different publishers.

My book TIBET: Culture on the Edge took a different course. Rizzoli, the publisher of three of my previous books, approached me and asked if I would consider doing another book on Tibet. My first book with Rizzoli  in ’96 had done very well and they wanted a book with a general theme of ‘Tibet 15 years later’ through my eyes.

Jinzhu Road went from being a 2 lane road to a 6 lane divided highway in 15 years

My trip to Tibet after a 15 year absence was absolutely shocking to me! The amount of development that had taken place in that short time was unbelievable. Furthermore, the evidence of climate change became very real for me as I crossed from the most eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau to the most western border. The Tibetan Plateau is heating up twice as fast as the global average and my interviews with the nomads and farmers confirmed the speed at which the climate is changing there.

Wanben, 30

I found the one constant that had not changed was the devotion of the Tibetan People to their spiritual practice. So the theme of TIBET: Culture on the Edge revealed itself during the year and a half I traveled across the plateau. The book became about a culture struggling to survive in the face of massive technological and developmental changes all the while trying to adapt to the displacement caused by the changing environment.

Phil Borges: For over twenty five years Phil Borges has lived with and documented indigenous and tribal cultures around the world. Through his work, he strives to create a heightened understanding of the issues faced by people in the developing world.

Phil Borges has been represented by Diane Farris Gallery since 1997.

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