'Ladakh', which translates as 'the land of high passes', was one of the most historically important hubs of trade and commerce of the Silk Road in ancient times, and which also served as a gateway between China, India, the Muslim world, and the far reaches of Europe. For thousands of years the people of Ladakh have maintained their traditions and methods of survival in one of the most harsh, arid, and high elevation mountain ranges of the world. Heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism from the North, Sunni Islam from Kashmir and Pakistan in the West, and Hindi dominance from the South, Ladakh rests on the edges of many civilizations. It is an ancient kingdom jeweled between the ancient religions, geopolitical powerhouses, as well as the eyes and curiosities of modern globalism, where the mountains caress the heavens, and where ancient glacier waters channel into the currents of life.
I accompanied a team of geologists from the University of Edinburgh on an expedition to research, examine, and measure the changing ablation rates of prehistoric glaciers amongst the Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges due to climate change. Although my primary mission was to record, document, and analyze, I had found myself captivated and enamored with the people of the land. Everywhere we went we were greeted with open arms and hot tea; into homes, into temples, into lives and customs that were completely foreign to our Western belief systems and ways of interacting.
This ongoing collection of images aims to celebrate and highlight the beauty, strength, and purity of the Ladakhi people, the pureness of their culture, the simplicity of their traditions, the warmth of their hearts, and the way in which they continue to live from the Earth, and for the Earth. With stark contrasts between the hamlet of Phyang, the city of Leh, and the village of Domkhar Gongma, I wish to demonstrate the resilience of indigenous peoples over the years when they choose to live off the land like their ancestors once did.
By Christopher Rubey —
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