In ‘Dyal Thak’, photographer Kin Coedel offers an intimate glimpse into life on the rapidly changing Tibetan plateau — Colossal


#climate crisis #Kin Coedel #portraits #Tibet

March 15, 2023

Grace Ebert

All images © Kin Coedel, shared with permission

Nestled between the Himalayas and the Taklamakan Desert, the Tibetan Plateau is sometimes called the “Third Pole”. The vast region is home to the largest source of fresh water outside the Arctic and provides 20% of the world’s population with this vital resource. However, due to rising temperatures, these stores are under threat. The plateau is the fastest warming region on the planet, and as Himalayan glaciers melt and infrastructure projects sprout across the landscape, people in the region are forced to migrate.

Over five visits to set in 2021, Kin Coedel has created an intimate series of photographs that document the lives of several nomadic communities. Title Dayal Thak, a Tibetan word that translates to “common thread,” the images depict people with deep connections to the land and animals, especially the long-haired yak, a vital source of food, clothing, and economic production. The rapidly advancing effects of the climate crisis are altering agricultural patterns and therefore the natural cycles that have been part of life for centuries.

A photo of a woman with long braids twirling in the air

Coedel lived for three months in Ritoma Village, a small nomadic farming community with a rich history of textiles and weaving, where he established important relationships with the Norlha workshop. Opened in 2007, the studio has a strong ecosystem of female-led craftsmanship, much of which focuses on traditional systems and sustainability.

Demonstrating a mutual trust between photographer and subject, many of Coedel’s images show herders in the meadow with the animals, alongside the women directing fiber production. “At first, the photos were more documentary, and as we got to know each other and they trusted me, the photos became a collaborative back and forth,” he told WePresent. “Working with people who trust you and will pursue an idea with you is so much fun – we did this project together.”

Two photos, on the left, a person's back covered with round suction cups, and on the right, a man in a field with a cow

The series is also part of Coedel’s larger effort to present a truer view of Eastern cultures that have been largely defined by Western viewpoints. He shares in a note to Colossal:

The truth is that Tibet is a place far from most people’s understanding. The Western media only talk about this region when it appears in the political news, or when celebrities express their support, most of the time to associate themselves with certain agendas and to seduce. But the daily life of Tibetans is much more than that. In fact, all the narratives presented by Western media have little to do with their daily realities. Politics is always an undercurrent when it comes to photographing people and culture, but I want to present a vision beyond that, to find all the beauty and magic in the little moments of everyday life.

Currently based in Paris, Coedel travels frequently and plans to visit rural communities across China in the coming months. He was recently named a finalist in the annual Hyères competition, which will exhibit his work in a collective exhibition in October. You can find more of his work on his site and Instagram.

A photo of several people in red holding lanterns

A portrait of a child with textiles tied to his head

Two photo portraits of a woman and a child

A shot of a twirling character with a white scarf trailing behind them

Two photos, on the left, a person looking through a hole in a piece of blue textile, and on the right, a woman holding a string between her fingers

A photo of two women holding blankets and smiling against a snowy landscape

#climate crisis #Kin Coedel #portraits #Tibet

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