© Olivier Föllmi

Karsha Monastery, Ladakh, Zanskar, Indian Himalayas.
The Karsha Buddhist monastery is located 3600 metres above the inaccessible Zanskar plain in the heart of the Indian Himalayas. Three years passed before I was able to capture this picture. Success came on the day of an exceptional autumn storm.

The river of life
Text: Olivier Föllmi, author of the exhibition’s photographs
and their captions

I like to travel, as it allows me to be free and take delight in the world. I  like to  take photographs, because it enables me to meet people without prejudice. I am a travelling photographer, my studio is the world, which I  traverse in  order to open up to diversity, convinced that when we go beyond our own personal truths, it becomes clear that we are all one.
In order to embark on a journey, meet other people and open up to  the  richness of humanity, I had to abandon my prejudices and overcome my fear of the unknown. And the first stranger, to whom we must reach out is the one who lives in each of us. Every journey begins by meeting and exploring oneself, one’s own consciousness, because only by seeking to  know oneself can one learn how to get to know others.

To take pictures, I often walk for hours, seeking to align myself with the  landscape, and then I may have to wait for hours for the right lighting. I  enjoy those long hikes, the sense of expectation and the hoping that I  will  be able to become a part of the harmony that so often overwhelms me. In  that unearthly moment in time, when a certain place, lighting and human come together, I press the shutter, and a deep feeling of love then comes over me. It feels as if I have penetrated to the essence of the world.

At the foot of the mountains, in the desert or at the heart of a forest, I  learn humility from those tribes that live the most simply. These people feel a deep respect for Mother Earth, because it is she who gives them sustenance each and every day. They are aware of the interdependence that exists between man, animals and all living things. Their wise decision to stay close to nature develops altruism and provides them peace of mind. Societies based on money tend to forget the importance of this relationship. They forget that if  a  man loses that close relationship with nature, in the long run it is he who has the most to lose.

In the great work of humanity’s civilization too many people have been left to  fend for themselves, too many must endure a life of slavery. As long as we accept the suffering of others, we consent to violence.
Violence is the result of intolerance. Over the centuries, religions have often been a pretext to impose power over others by force, but I reject the  too  facile equating of religion with fanaticism. Irrespective of their religion, those people who do not shut themselves off in the dogmas of their faith have shown me that the human body is too small for the spirit dwelling in it, and that the  man who lives in harmony with himself contributes to the  development of peace in  the world. When he reaches the core of his beliefs, he discovers the  essence of all other beliefs. Every man and every woman genuinely involved in  a  spiritual dimension contains an element of divinity.

What is it that makes us human beings? That which makes us different. Diversity is a fundamental principle of life, humanity’s treasure. It is one thing to think that we are on the right path, and quite another to believe that ours is the only way. Even when following different paths, all people are travelling one and the same road. True, we don’t get there by a beaten track – therein lies the beauty: it is alive. The straight path and winding path are one and the same. The beauty of humanity is unity in diversity. Everyone is right. From so many right ways are born the next.

Growing together with others does not require superhuman effort. I believe in the future of humanity, because it is in our hands. So everything is possible, all is still attainable. Years of travelling around the world have given me a  deep belief in the potential of every human being, a conviction that people are capable of helping others, of solidarity, that they are hardworking and courageous. Humanity can move mountains, is capable of love. Humanity is able to transform the world into a flowering garden enriched by multiple truths.
Humanity is me, it’s you, it’s all of us. We are all able to take a step, a small step towards another person.