The Tibet Album: British Photography in Central Tibet 1920-1950
The Tibet Album:British Photography in Central Tibet 1920 -1950
The Tibet Album website provides unprecedented access to more than 6000 photographs spanning thirty years of Tibet’s history. The majority of these photographs were taken by an elite group of men who visited Tibet as civil servants representing the British Government. The period between 1920 and 1950 was marked by increasing warmth in Anglo-Tibetan relations and a greater ease of access to the country from the centres of colonial power in India. The photographs featured in this site therefore reflect the topography of the routes used by the British to reach the capital of Tibet (Lhasa) from the Indian side of the Himalayas and are concentrated in south and central Tibet. In many ways these photographs are the product of a particularly British engagement with Tibet at the height of colonialism. However, the time frame in which they were made documents an era when the influence of the British Empire was actually beginning to unravel in Asia: by 1947 India had gained its independence from Britain. Tibet’s position on the fraying edge of the Empire meant that it was of significant interest for British trade and diplomacy but it was never colonised. However the country exerted a powerful fascination in the minds of many British subjects. This was fuelled by the photographs and publications of the privileged few who managed to enter Tibet and to live there for months at a time. The photographs contained in The #Tibet Album reproduce the ways that Tibet was imagined by the British at a particular historical moment. They also offer profound commentary on what Tibet was and has become.