Sunday, 8 January 2012

Taylor Weidman: Mustang

Photo © Taylor Weidman-All Rights Reserved

"Mustang is arguably the best-preserved example of traditional Tibetan life left in the world."
And so says Taylor Weidman in the recently featured article on NPR's website.

The title of the article is Can Photos Save A Vanishing Culture? especially as the younger generation in this Kingdom is becoming increasingly disconnected from its traditions, because those who can afford to go to school leave for neighboring Kathmandu or India, and do not return.

I do not believe that photographs can save a vanishing culture, but if "save" means and is used in the context of preservation, then yes...they do. In the case of the Omo Valley tribes, as an example, the literal influx of tourists and their cameras has impacted the traditions of these proud people. I have seen (and featured) a number of photographs of Omo Valley tribes people wearing all sorts of headgear and dress that are not indigenous to their culture...and were more akin to avant garde fashion models, set up that way by over imaginative photographers. This type of photography is not 'saving' but exploiting.

Taylor Weidman is a photographer and founder of the Vanishing Cultures Project. He worked with a number of magazines and NGOs, and his photographs were exhibited in Geneva, Montreal and New York. Graduating with a Master's in Photojournalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse University, he worked at The Christian Science Monitor, then completed a long-term photography project about the Tibetan Kingdom of Lo as a Fulbright Fellow in Nepal.