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by Kabir Mansingh Heimsath

(click on the small image for full screen image with captions.)

Lhasa Nights 1

This short series reflects my reaction to a standard photographic representation of Tibet as something static and objectively distant. By focussing on Lhasa I mean to emphasise the contemporary urban nature of a city that is too-often associated with a mysterious past. As with other cities, Lhasa provides constant and sometimes intimate contact with strangers – people who we may or may not see tomorrow – and these photos, all taken in public spaces or accessible venues, deal with that specifically urban experience. Whether tourists at the Potala (Lhasa Nights #10) or pilgrims at the Jokhang (# 11), eating dinner (# 8) or visiting night clubs (#5), life in Lhasa involves a series of interactions with people whom we do not know, and who do not know each other. The anonymity of urban interaction creates a dynamic that can be jarring for tourists who expect a postcard easiness, but it is the way of life for Tibetans in Lhasa.

Lhasa Nights 2

Lhasa Nights 3

Lhasa Nights 4

Likewise, the sequence of night images intends to subvert the simplicity with which we judge a foreign place and explicitly uses darkness as a metaphor for uncertainty.New cars (#3) or an applique hat (#16) mark a visitor to the city almost as much as a fancy camera. These lives converge on the Barkhor, but each embodies a history, a culture, memories and experience that remain mutually unknown. Other lives pass discreetly (#15), intersect coincidentally for a time (# 4), separate into isolation (# 12), or perhaps even build an ongoing connection (# 13); artificial light creates a point of contact while the future recedes into darkness. Night remains indicative of the ambiguous nature of interactions in Lhasa today.

Lhasa Nights 5

Lhasa Nights 6

Lhasa Nights 7

This is a visual essay and I have not included titles or captions so as not to “define” a specific image or attempt to explain the situation. The pictures certainly reflect my own experience of Lhasa, but I hope they will also serve to raise questions for others.

Lhasa Nights 8

Lhasa Nights 9

Lhasa Nights 10

Lhasa Nights 11

Lhasa Nights 12

Lhasa Nights 13

Lhasa Nights 14

Lhasa Nights 15

Lhasa Nights 16

Lhasa Nights 17

text & images © Kabir Mansingh Heimsath | exhibitions