Lost Tibet

On 16 August I wrote about Chinese photographer Lu Nan and his series of work on Tibetan livelihood called “The Four Seasons: The Everyday Life of Tibetan Peasants”.

An equally priceless collection of black and white photos about Tibet is Heinrich Harrer’s work during his seven-year stay in the then free Tibet. Harrer’s Tibetan adventure, which was recounted in his book “Seven Years in Tibet”, began in 1944 when he escaped with Peter Aufschnaiter and two Germans from a British prison camp in India. They entered Tibet in May that year. After two incredibly tough years in southwestern Tibet, Harrer and Aufschnaiter reached Lhasa in 1946. Harrer later met the then eleven-year-old 14th Dalai Lama, befriended him and taught him much about western culture and knowledge. In 1951, when the Communist Chinese took over Tibet, Harrer, like the Dalai Lama, was forced to leave the country.

Some of Harrer’s 3,000 photos about the Tibet which was lost forever, taken between 1948 and 1951, were published in his aptly named book “Lost Lhasa”. A few are also available from the website http://www.harrerportfolio.com.

The following quotation from Harrer’s “Seven Years in Tibet”, shows his deep love for the country and his sadness for its present state:

"Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the cries of wild geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear cold moonlight. My heartfelt wish is that my story may create some understanding for a people whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world."

That love was well reflected in those pictures.

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