Lhagyal Lhagyal


Lhagyal Lhagyal

Tell me a little bit about yourself. 
I'm a photographer based in New Delhi.

Where were you born?
I was born and raised in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala.

When did your parents come to India?
My parents came to India from Tibet in 1992. Like many Tibetan exiles fleeing Chinese repression, they actually made the perilous journey by foot!!! Along with a small group of 15 people, including my 9 year old cousin, they walked for days to reach the border. 

What was your childhood like? 
I was brought up in a Tibetan boarding school, and all my teachers and friends were Tibetan. Looking back now, school was a safe haven for me. From classes to household chores, we were taught everything. It felt more like home than a school; that sense of community was always very strong. Now that I'm no longer part of that community, I miss that feeling, which is why I go back any chance I get.
What were some of your challenges back then?
Almost none, I felt very secure and never out of place. But when I moved to Delhi for college I felt the shock of a new environment and challenges of blending in.

Do you have family in Tibet?
Yes, most of my relatives are still in Tibet.

What is home to you?
To me, home is a place you can return to.

Do you ever want to go to Tibet?
Yes, of course. I've always wanted to physically see the place where my parents grew up.

How do you hold on to your Tibetan culture?
Through the support of the community. I live in Delhi, where one might easily feel lost in the hustle and bustle of the city. But our small community of Tibetans in Majnu ka Tilla has been a home away from home for me, an anchor in a sense. Our culture is strongly rooted in all of us, and lives on through us. 

What's your favourite Tibetan food?

Tsampa, shapta and tingmo.

How did you get into photography?
I've had a penchant for art since childhood. But I briefly went down the wrong path after school—embarking on a B.Sc. Zoology degree. Thankfully after the first year, I switched to a BFA. degree, which had a short photography course. Since then I've been hooked.

What inspires you?
Memories. Nostalgia.

Tell us about your personal project.
My personal project deals with themes of longing, personal space, displacement and memories.

How did you get the nickname Mango?
Hahahaha. The first time I met you both, Aashna and Sneha, at a Bhaane party, you asked me what my favourite fruit was. And since then... I've been Mango.

Favourite OLIO shoot?
This one!

Tell us a little bit about this shoot—the location, the concept, the styling.   
We shot in Sikkim, in a small town where my girlfriend Karma was born. 

Karma is wearing a traditional Chupa, brought to India from Tibet! It's a family heirloom, passed on to her from her grandmother. The make up is a replication of the native Tibetan look—red cheeks are very common amongst people who live in high latitudes and cold temperatures. 

How's your working relationship with Karma, your girlfriend, and also the model and make up artist of this shoot.
We've been together for a long time, and she's seen my work from the very beginning, so there's a deep sense of trust and understanding. Blending our personal and professional lives together, we're collaborators in the truest sense and we find inspiration in one another. We push each other out of our comfort zones to explore new creative realms. She's always been my muse, as well as my most honest critic.

Finally, how was 2020 for you?

Like everyone else, 2020 was definitely a hard year for me. But as much as I would like to complain, I've also never felt more fortunate. It taught me to appreciate the littlest things and be thankful for everything I have. Despite not being able to work, I was able to sustain my life, which really brought things into perspective for me. 

What are you looking forward to in 2021?
Working on my personal projects. Traveling. And saying bye bye to COVID-19.
Concept & photography: Tenzin Lhagyal
Model & make up artist: Karma 

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