Visions of Tibet: From the Land of Snows to the Land of the Tiger
An exhibit of photographs, a collaborative effort of Sonam Zoksang and Stephen Ironside, shows Tibetans at home and abroad.
Tibetan culture is rapidly changing, and although they are hanging on tightly to their ways, the differences in cultural norms between Tibetans born in Tibet and those born in India are becoming more and more pronounced. Tibetans living in Tibet are facing cultural destruction close to home; Tibetans in India are becoming distanced from their traditions over both space and time. These images reflect on the beauty of Tibet and how Tibetans living in exile in India are both changing and holding on to their cultural legacy. The unique perspectives of a native Tibetan and a western photographer add an additional layer of meaning to this exhibit honoring the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the University of Arkansas.
Sonam Zoksang was born in Kyirong, southern Tibet, in 1960 after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. His parents escaped to India at their first opportunity, when Zoksang was one month old. He grew up in refugee schools, got a degree in Buddhist Dialectics, and taught himself photography. In 1985, Zoksang moved to the U.S., where he now runs two craft shops called Vision of Tibet in New York and Philadelphia.
Sonam Zoksang's mission is to tell the story of his homeland through photography. He does this by documenting Tibetans and Tibetan life, both in and out of Tibet. When possible, he travels to Tibet to document the conditions in his Chinese-occupied homeland. He often takes pictures of Tibetan refugee communities in India, as well as in the US and other countries. Zoksang's slide presentations at schools and cultural and community centers are always well-attended; he seeks out these opportunities as he feels education is particularly important. His photos have been widely published and exhibited around the world. For more information, visit www.visionoftibet.com or browse the gallery of images at gallery.me.com/zoksang.
A recent graduate from the University of Arkansas, Stephen Ironside traveled to India and Nepal on a semester-long study abroad program through Students in International Training studying the Tibetan diaspora. Living with a Tibetan family, trekking through rural northern Nepal, and staying at a Buddhist monastery to study the convergence of western and traditional Tibetan education systems gave him a unique outsider's perspective on Tibetans living in exile.
Ironside's earliest published work was in the award-winning Fayetteville High School literary magazine Connotations, Volumes XXII and XXIII (cover). He was on staff of The Arkansas Traveler for all four years of his undergraduate career, shot for the UA Yearbook, and was published on the cover of the Weddings with Style international magazine. In 2009, he placed 9th in the National Geographic/World Nomads Travel Photography Scholarship.
He is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association, the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers, and displays his photography at Poor Richard's Art Gallery in Rogers. He has done commercial work for various colleges at the U of A, and recently returned from his second trip to India on an assignment for Wal-mart Ethical Sourcing.
Ironside is pursuing biological/natural/cultural photography as a profession, and hopes to help revitalize peoples' love for the natural world and for cultures besides their own. He hopes to secure a job at a nature publication, conservation group, or other non-profit or human rights based institution.
All of Ironside's images are for sale, with proceeds to benefit Tibetan refugees in India. Call 479-409-4495 to purchase or visit www.ironsidephotography.com.
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