From the Jacket
‘Instead of putting the Gross National Product at the centre of our endeavours, let us strive for Gross National Happiness.’ This quotation of Bhutan’s fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck reveals the essence of what makes his country on the southern slopes of the Himalayas so exceptional. Bhutan has been cut off from the rest of the world for a long time. Though its borders have been open since 1974, few visitors have been there. Since the first democratic elections in 2008, Bhutan has now joined the modern world. In spite of that, it tries to be faithful to its own traditions while harvesting the advantages of modernity.
Daily life is still characterized by its century-old religious and cultural traditions. They are the ‘capital’ of a society that strives for ‘Gross National Happiness’. The faces in this book mirror the dignity and self-confidence of people who have found their place in society: members of the royal family, monks, religious dancers, peasants, herders, artisans, children and elderly, women and men. Each one of them stepped voluntarily into the portable studio, told his/her name and explained where and how he/she lived and earned his/her livelihood.
This portable studio, designed by the photographer himself, is like a huge black cube that can be set up anywhere: in this king’s palace, on a village square or anywhere within the confines of a monastery or temple. The canvas provides a neutral background for the photography so the eye of the viewer can concentrate fully on the photographed individual. The biographical data adds intensity to the portraits. People have a history and their history has a face.
This unusual ‘studio photography’ is accompanied and framed by photographs of an archaic landscape that can only be found along the slopes of he mighty Himalayas: towering mountains, fortress-like monasteries, grazing yak herds and untouched forests. This book offers a fascinating view of a world in the process of slow change, which in many respects has the power of being exemplary in a world beset by the ills of a far too fast moving modernity.
About the Author
Gunter Pfannmuller was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1950 where his photography studio has been based since 1978. For thirty years he has worked as a professional photographer in both the advertising and the editorial fields. His sensitive and artistic portraits, as well as remarkable photography projects in Africa and Asia produced acclaimed international exhibitions.
Wilhelm Klein was born in Loich, Austria in 1941. He is a freelance writer and publishers, and partner in the Bangkok based Windows on the World Publishing Company. He has written and edited many travel and culture related books. Together with Gunter Pfannmuller he published Burma, Burma the Golden and In Search of Dignity with APA Publications and Aperture Foundation.
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