Norlha in Black and White


Black and white photography was where I started. I developed my own films, printed my pictures in my home darkroom. My favorite camera was a Rolleiflex, that used the 120 format that gave large, crisp negatives and beautiful prints. It had the added advantage that the film didn’t succumb to the vagueries of the Indian monsoon and most survived.

By the mid 80’s I didn’t have time to spend hours on each print and the darkroom became a storage room. Then came digital photography that could deliver anything with Photoshop. The Rolleiflex got passed on to Noryang who used it in college then quietly relegated it to a shelf in Dechen’s Norlha office.

Last year, the gang of children that hang around the office after work came out brandishing a disemboweled 120 format film. A photographer had left a box the previous year and, in the digital age, no one knew what it was for. I brought out the Rolleiflex, still loaded with a film begun by Noryang six years before, and took a few rolls.

All the black in white pictures in this series are real; the oldest is from the Gribonow Archive, a scene of Ritoma from the late 20’s. It was recognized as such thanks to the unmistakable landmark of seemingly tumbling stones that stand just a few meters from where we built the workshop nearly 100 years later with the monastery in the background. One is of Noryang using it, others are scenes of a Norlha picnic around 2009, and the rest, I took last year. The two color ones are of us using the camera as a prop in a shoot and of me cradling it in Rangoon in 1971.

Strange seeing a herd of yaks in Black and White….