the black & white of bhutan
pictures from the last shangri-la
photography essay and talk
ubud centre for creative photography
- at taksu photo gallery
13 february 2016
Bhutan has been romanticised as the last Shangri-La. Most often, typical pictures brought back from Bhutan are of breathtaking mountain landscapes, monasteries hanging off sheer cliff walls; jubilant and colourful festival dancers; or solemn monks draped in maroon robes.
The ‘Black & White of Bhutan’ is Chaves’ metaphor that attempts to free Bhutan’s overlooked imagery from the distractions of tourism and the exaggerations of colour. Instead of showing us the well-trodden tourist path, he offers scenes that create a sense of global connection and community rather than isolation and over embellishment. The black & white imagery symbolises the harmony of yin and yang. Emphasising what-is, over manufactured perceptions of beauty and ugliness.
In general, tours of the country are highly regulated with strict itineraries. Bhutan, a country known for its isolation, officially opened its borders to foreign tourism only in 2010. Television and the Internet were allowed just eleven years before, in 1999.
“I had a rare opportunity to live in Bhutan from June 2014 to January 2015. This allowed me to photograph daily life as a resident of this Himalayan kingdom. I hope to present a more balanced view of Bhutan. A view that draws upon cross-culture similarities of the challenges and rewards of every day life.”
—mark l chaves