I took this picture during my first assignment for [National Geographic] magazine.
The two Tibetan kids in the photo are in an area of upper Mustang called Choser, where the people still inhabit cave dwellings. Mustang was off limits to tourism until 1994, so it’s only fairly recently opened up. But it’s seldom visited by anybody other than its residents. We were on a scientific expedition using climbing to explore ancient burial crypts to get an idea of human migration along the Silk Road. It was a fusion of science, culture, and adventure: a golden trifecta for storytelling.
I wanted to make portraits of these incredible people who are more Tibetan than any Tibetan because there’s no Chinese influence. I have a deep passion for their culture, and I try to use images to promote its preservation. These two kids stepped in front of the camera and made the Namaste gesture you see in the image without being prompted or cued. And I was fortunate enough to be there with my camera to make the shot.
They remind me that my decisions have impacts that are more far-reaching than I might think. When I make a decision in my life, I want to be conscious of how I can positively or negatively impact the entire human family. Knowing that there are these fragile cultures out there, and our decisions do have impacts, is very important.
Photograph Date: 2010
Medium: Chromogenic Print