Patrick Sutherland

I have been photographing in Spiti since 1993. I am currently interested in modified vernacular photography: painted or hand coloured black and white photographs, digital portraits pasted on to computer generated landscapes or montages of multiple portraits.  On the left is a portrait of the current Lochen Tulku, spiritual head of Key monastery. Surrounding the central figure are the eighteen previous incarnations of this lineage reproduced from thangkas in the monastery. These images have been scanned in from Roberto Vitali and Tashi Tsering’s black and white book on the history of Key monastery, where their reproduction in monochrome was probably a question of limited  budget. But in this composite image, the monochrome introduces an extra sense of the historical.  The upper right image is a colour enprint from Key monastery. It depicts a much younger Lochen Tulku with Kyabje Tsenshap Rinpoche, one of his gurus and the former debating partner and religious assistant to the Dalai Lama. Mounted on card, it is now cracked in two. A hand coloured, monochrome passport sized image of the 10th Panchen Lama, its surface also cracked, has been pasted on, montaged using pre-Photoshop technology. The lineages and monastic seats of the Panchen Lama and Lochen Tulku are intertwined. Geopolitics precluded their actual meeting, but in the photograph they have been brought together.  On the lower right another image containing a photograph of the Lochen Tulku:  It’s a complex family portrait of Dorje Phuntsog with his son, taken from his house in Mud.  Above them the late Dudjom Rinpoche, head of the Nyimgma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) and again the Lochen Tulku. These are all layered on to a photograph of Kungri monastery.  These modifications seem to expresses a local dissatisfaction with the limitations of straight photography: specifically its ability to articulate complex ideas about identity. They circumvent the restrictions of time and geo-political circumstance and allow for the manifestation of actual, perceived or proposed connections, genealogies and lineages.   But I am a practitioner, a photographer, and my main interest is in making visual work. I am planning to experiment within this territory of manipulation.  To return to Spiti taking a scanner, digital camera, portable colour printer and an archive of photographs: a kind of portable digital studio I will bring to the theatre performers I work with. I plan to make portraits in collaboration with them to discover what they choose to bring within the overall frame, where they place these disparate elements and how they articulate their rationale.  Patrick Sutherland, School of Media, LCC.

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