Dan Paton, a photographer in Ritoma
Dan Paton, a photographer from Oxford, UK visited Norlha in April this year to shoot new material and teach studio photography to Norlha’s Lhabum, He had heard about Norlha through a mutual Tibetologist friend, Jetsun Deleplanque, an old school friend of Dechen's and his ex-housemate whilst studying at SOAS in London. It was Jetsun who showed him the ad we had put out and he jumped at the chance. Dan had always dreamed of spending time in Tibet, having grown up with family connections to Tibetans and visited the Tibetan regions of Ladakh, Zanskar and Himachal Pradesh. He had never made it to the Tibetan Plateau and the idea of working at Norlha, which he describes as unique in the way it manufactures rare textiles made by nomads on the Plateau, of passing on his of photographic knowledge, of ‘shooting beautiful people wrapped in fabulous textiles’, and of becoming part of the Norlha community was for him a dream come true.
He found Ritoma, a small village of 200 families at the end of the road from Tso to be busy! He loved the chilled but industrious vibe of the workshop with its early starts and late finishes, the landscape of endless pasture they used as backdrop for many of the shoots, the dinners they were invited to by the local community families which he described as delicious feasts.
Dan greatly enjoyed working with the Norlha team. He found Dechen impressive in what she had accomplished, his photography student Lhabum keen and quick to learn. He found the whole team to be professional and passionate about what they do, innovative but humble, making things happen often without the perfect tools or situation while still pulling off results. He was excited by their willingness to learn and to listen and their flexibility do things differently if need be. Their dynamism left him optimistic that anything could be done and often quickly. He only wished that his clients back in the West were more like this!
Photographically speaking, he described his best moment as shooting the new range of Norlha scarves worn by the esteemed model Satya Oblette on a magical snowy morning at Norden camp. The morning sun’s increasing intensity melted the snow which slowly vaporized, gradually steaming up the landscape.
Non-photographically, it was seeing his first wild wolf on the outskirts of Ritoma. He said he loved wolves and had always wanted to see one in the wild. The large grey wolf looked back at him with beautiful piercing eyes and lingered for a few seconds before slinking off into the distance.
Dan said he felt at home in Ritoma. He liked the reserved, often shy nature of the people, their good-hearted, genuine and generous disposition so linked to the landscape and the rhythm of the grassland that bore them. His greatest challenge was completing everything he had set out to do, and which in fact, he is still doing, with some images he hasn’t been able to look at properly and finish. Dan left feeling he had a wonderful experience, with the most important being the relationships he made with people there. He hopes to do it again and described his time at Norlha as “slipping into a parallel dimension that was better than the one I usually find myself in...I just loved it and didn't want to leave!”
In this album, we show Dan at work followed by a selection of some of his favorite photos.