Preserving a culture on film 

What: Himalayan Visions & Tibetan Voices

Who: Photographer Brian Harris

Where: MY Place

When: Saturday, Jan. 11

Tibet and Buddhism. A civilization and culture about as far away from Whistler as crystal clear coral beaches. Because of the distance geographically and idealogically, most of us probably hold a mythical view of the Himalayan heritage: desolate landscapes contrasted against big warm smiles offering a calmness and serenity the west just never seems to capture.

Award-winning Vancouver photographer and Buddhist, Brian Harris, has seen this peaceful world but says it is dwindling fast, to the point that soon, there’s no doubt it will be gone.

"There’ s nothing anyone can do to stop change. Even the Buddhist religion acknowledges change. It’s unavoidable and irreversible. Modern Tibetans are generally no different to everyone else these days," said Harris.

This pending extinction of yet another religious-based existence is what drives Harris to document what’s left before it’s too late.

"A photograph can’t preserve a culture but what it can do is keep a photographic record of what Tibetans and the Buddhist Himalayan world was really like," he said. " I present glimpses of the old world, especially the parts I see as relevant to our own society, and those principals and characteristics of their culture that can be adapted to help our own."

Harris’ passion has taken him on trips to Tibet an average of every three years since 1987, for periods of up to five months at a time. He treks the countryside with a driver and a translator, uncovering hundreds of stories, people and places, keeping them alive through his lens. On his return to Canada, he turns his evidence into fundraising support for Seva, a charity committed to blindness prevention programs in developing countries.

Despite his love for Buddhism, Harris gets mixed feelings chronicling the last days of Tibet’s Himalayan origins.

"I feel great sadness filming some of the traditions or people that are being phased out, but I also get a great deal of joy witnessing such a beautiful existence."

Harris’ presentation, Himalayan Visions and Tibetan Voices, is a beautiful and stirring way to experience a rare lifestyle. In a 90 minute digital multi-media show, you’ll see 225 award-winning images, and photographs of Seva's sight restoration work in Asia. Along with the visual components, the show features specially composed music and recorded narration by exiled Tibetan teacher Zasep Tulku Rinpoche and Iain Marrs.

The Whistler stop is the half way mark for a two year cross-Canada tour for Harris and Seva. Its purpose is to encourage Canadians to support much needed international medical programs in developing countries and to take action in their own lives by bringing about beneficial change in the world.

Harris’ association with Seva has helped them raise $230,000 and garnered many volunteers at home and abroad.

"I knew 15 years ago on my first Tibetan trip that I could use my photos to raise money and from there it’s been an ongoing labour of love for me," he said.

The most current way to raise awareness is through the multimedia show, but Harris’ popular book, Tibetan Voices: A Traditional Memoir, was personally endorsed by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

Here’s a few show elements to expect in Himalayan Visions & Tibetan Voices:


Harris talks about his personal, artistic, and cultural preservation motivations and relates these vales to particular photographs that appear in the show.

A Life

In this 10 minute memoir, Kunga Peljor tells how he experienced virtually all levels of Tibetan society, from nomadic childhood to aristocratic upbringing – from monk to beggar then to family man and warrior. Forty images synchronized with memoir narration by Iain Marrs.

The Seva Story

Thirty images with live Harris narration about how a blind person comes to receive a Seva funded cataract operation; travelling from village to hospital and back to their village.

Lessons Learned

Brian talks about three pivotal photographic moments, and how these experiences relate to service, values and diminishing culture.

Symbolic Meanings

Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, a Tibetan Lama, presents his view of six Harris photographs from a Buddhist perspective.

Himalayan Visions

One-hundred-and-fifty images choreographed with environmental sounds, sacred music and music composed by Victor Chorobik. Buddhist Chant by Venerable Tsar Tsar Gyalten Rinpoche.

Tickets to Harris’ presentation are $15 from Ticketmaster and the MY Place box office. Call 604-935-8418. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. The fall 2002 shows in major Canadian cities were all sold out so buy your tickets early.

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