The typical way I work when producing a book is to choose an issue I feel strongly about then finding 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 that is to be released this October 4th, 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 Tibetan Portrait in ’96 had done very well and they wanted a book with a general theme of ‘Tibet 15 years later’ through my eyes. Tibetan Portrait’s theme concentrated on the Tibetan’s struggle to maintain their Tibetan Buddhist Culture in the face of occupation by a foreign culture.
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.
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.