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The Tibetan Photo Project- Founders News- 2005

Film Clips and Trailers From The tibetan Photo Project on Youtube 25 clips

August 2005
With the delivery of the final cut of "Voices in Exile" by Wangden from Dharamsala, it has become a very busy time. The film opened the gala night at the National Tibetan Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia and the Northern California premiere was a sell out in Mendocino.

The northern California opening did what the project is designed to do - create a vehicle to tell Tibet's story through press coverage. The opening received half page coverage in the Fort Bragg Advocate and the Mendocino Beacon.

In southern California, Antelope Valley Press City Editor wrote the review that appears below. This review has really thrown the doors open. Screenings are now in the works with the DVD in the mail by request to France, England, New Zealand, Alaska, Washington State, The San Francisco Bay Area, England, Michigan and North Carolina.

This month, we are presenting the full text of Shoaf's review as the update on the progress of The Tibetan Photo Project and the release of Voices in Exile.

Voices echo from Tibet
By Norman Shoaf City Editor,
Antelope Valley Press Southern California

With "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Wedding Crashers," "Fantastic Four" and other blockbusters burning up the box office this summer, I will let you in on a little secret: "Voices in Exile," which chronicles the struggle of the Tibetan people for their culture and for their very lives, is the most important film you can see this year.

Since 1949, when China invaded Tibet, Chinese policies have caused the deaths of 1.2 million Tibetans -one-sixth of the population -through execution, imprisonment, starvation and forced labor.

About 150,000 Tibetans have risked their lives to leave their country and set up a community in exile under the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet for India in 1959.

"Voices in Exile" was directed, edited and narrated by Tenzin Wangden Andrugtsang, who served as a secretary in the Dalai Lama's office, under the auspices of the Tibetan Photo Project.

Joe Mickey, a Northern California photographer and all-around good guy, found his calling about five years ago in encouraging exiled Tibetans to use donated, disposable cameras to capture glimpses of their lives; he then published the photos in every way his "begging bowl" budget allowed, on the Web, at galleries and elsewhere.

Mickey has exhibited his growing stock of recent images, plus donated collections of vintage photos of Tibet from decades past, around the United States, including a stunning show earlier this year at Antioch University in Los Angeles.

You can easily linger for quite some time over the rich variety of intimate views of Tibetan life in exile at

Mickey got a professional movie camera into the hands of Wangden, who set out to capture the history and current progress of Tibet's struggle on film.

The result is a mini-masterpiece that should move anyone with an interest in history, sociology, international events, religion (Tibetan Buddhism informs so much of the refugees' purpose and motivation) or basic human experience.

Thinking persons can scarce come away from viewing "Voices in Exile" without being deeply affected.

The film frankly details China's rape of Tibet, though most of its images are suitable for all but the youngest children. But the heart of the film centers around interviews with the exiled Tibetans themselves.

They debate their place and purpose in the world; they appreciate help from other nations but disparage patronization; they wrestle with the conflict between Buddhism's path of nonviolent resistance and ongoing, unchecked Chinese brutality.

"Voices" enjoyed its world premiere recently at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., where Wangden and Mickey met face to face for the first time. Mickey told me the first question they heard from viewers was, "Why haven't we been told about what China has done to Tibet? This is terrible."

"That's when we knew we were making progress," Mickey said of the film and of the efforts of the Tibetan Photo Project.

As the exhibition of photos was about to close in Shreveport, Mickey offered the collection to other venues. A display would certainly put any gallery on the international map. I let the folks at Antelope Valley College know that the photos were available, basically for the asking, but heard nothing back. Not enough interest in our community, I guess.

On July 8, "Voices in Exile" opened the National Tibetan Film Festival at the world-class Australian Center for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Australian senator Lyn Allison noted: "This is an interesting time in Australia's relations with China but, disappointingly, there is little evidence that human rights abuses in Tibet have been raised in our talks on a free-trade agreement...Tibetans are still being imprisoned and exploited, and there is little sign that China will even consider the autonomy offer put up by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama."

How long, one wonders, will Uncle Sam continue to cozy up to China's rapacious dictators in the face of their continued atrocities?

"The West has a great deal to learn from the experience of the Tibetan community," Mickey said. "The perspective provided from the modern history of Tibet and China reveals a great deal about the nature of China's future leadership."

"The lessons have become even more relevant with the rise to power of Hu Jintao, China's former hard-line secretary to Tibet."

Of "Voices in Exile," Mickey said, "It is crucial to the survival of the Tibetan culture that the Tibetans find new ways to keep telling the world about their tragedy, and this effort, in some small way, hopes to add to the continuation of the voice from the Tibetans."


July 2005-New worth noteing-Dalai Lama awarded peace prize 27 July 2005

THE Dalai Lama was awarded a peace prize by the German state of Hesse overnight "for his policy of non-aggression towards China", the organizers said.

The Dalai Lama received the prize in person on the second day of a three-day visit to Germany. The president of the foundation which awards the prize, Karl Starzacher, said "more than ever it is now up to the goodwill of Beijing" to start negotiations with Tibet.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and he is seen by the Chinese authorities as a separatist threat.

Previous winners of the Hesse peace prize include the former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Spring Update
On July 23, 2005 we will proudly host the first public showing of the new film produced in association with The Tibetan Photo Project, "Voices in Exile" by Tenzin Wangden Andrugtsang. Click here to get details.

The Tibetan Photo Project came about during the 2000 Mendocino Music Festival, which hosted a cultural exhibition by Tibetan monks. North Coast photographer Joe Mickey discovered a sponsorship program for a monk, Jamyang Norbu living in exile in India. With his first correspondence to the Drepung monastery located in southwest India, Mickey sent two disposable cameras.

Jamyang returned the camera along with a note telling Mickey not to expect much as the monk said, "I do not know what to photograph as we have no culture based on photography."

But, when Mickey developed the film he found beautiful glimpses into the every day lives of the Buddhist monks. He immediately sent six more cameras. Mickey also began giving local lectures and slide shows of the images.

Financially the project has struggled. Mickey describes the financial situation, "Last year about this time, it was a $100 donation from Latvia and one from Canada, along with a couple of $10 bills in envelopes that kept the project on the Web. This year things are better. This year, with a film in the works and two major exhibits, we still have a very tight budget but we are starting to reach several goals."

Colleges and Universities offer support In April, 2005, at the invitation of Remington College, Sazzy Varga, co-founder of The Tibetan Photo Project, presented a slide show and lecture to introduce the project to the San Diego area. 125 students and teachers attend her premiere lecture.

With an invitation from Colorado College to lecture in Colorado Springs in Sept. 2003, Mickey began work on the project full time. In the Springs he was able to add five venues including the University of Colorado. Over 400 attended the lectures and slide shows

Credibility was added to his research on Tibet and the modern-day leadership in China when the Website for the Asia Studies Center at Harvard posted a photo of the Dalai Lama and a link to Mickey's research on the center's Homepage to announce a visit to the University by his holiness, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In September of 2004, Antioch University held an exhibit in Santa Barbara and between 300 and 600 people dropped by during the 2-hour opening. With the success of Santa Barbara, Antioch opened an expanded version of the show in Los Angeles on Feb. 3, 2005 and has plans to send the show to their main campus locations in Ohio, New Hampshire and Seattle Washington.

On Feb. 27, 2005 in Shreveport, Louisiana, the Meadows Museum at Centenary College opened a major exhibit of the photos. In association with the show, 4 months of special events, including cultural performances by Tibetan monks have been scheduled. The exhibit has been in planning for a year and as part of the effort, Director Diane Dufilho has spent nearly the same amount of time to help secure a visa for Tenzin Wangden to come to Shreveport to lecture and to edit a film being produced with financing from Mickey in association with The Tibetan Photo Project.

Why does Mickey think there is so much support from the colleges and universities? "Given that my lectures are not on Tibetan Buddhism, but, on the lessons the West can learn about the brutal nature of China's current leadership through Tibet's modern history, there is a recognition that China, in the long run, will be the greatest challenge to the West in economics, security and to freedom everywhere. Its important that this and the next generation get a better understanding of China's political nature and Tibet's history offers the blueprint."

The Web
The Web has been important to the project. "The Web is relatively low cost, and opens us up to a world wide audience, but we would not be there if not for the tireless website work, of co-founder Sazzy Varga." said Mickey who also works constantly to create Web links that introduce people to the plight of the Tibetans through their photography. "We are linked by most of the major Tibetan organizations and the Tibetan government in exile," says Mickey, "but I am always looking for ways to find people who are not part of the 'Save Tibet' choir." To that end, the project has received links from photographers, magazines, models and even surfing Websites.

A Google search for the phrase "The Tibetan Photo Project" yields 141,000 listings.

"Google shows us linked to over 1,400 sites a and many others make mentions of the project." A quick look at the first few pages of Google listings showed the project is linked to a wide variety ranging from the Beastie Boys (who sponsor an annual Free Tibet concert), to a BBC Website thanks to the help of Canadian Web wizard John Kittridge, to a foundation site for Ghandi, to the History Channel discussion board, to the University of Virginia Library online, The Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library, to

The Movie "Voices in Exile"
With Mickey as the producer, Tenzin Wangden began filming for "Voices in Exile" in the fall of 2004. "We knew from the beginning," said Mickey, "that still photos would have to evolve into motion pictures. We just had to find the money and the right Tibetan to do the first film. We set it all up with Wangden through e-mail and some very complicated wire transfers for the funds."

Before beginning production, Mickey checked in with local filmmaker Paul Kraus for technical advise. Kraus had done special effects modeling for productions including Indiana Jones, Star Trek and Silent Running.

"Paul also makes documentaries ("The Shape Makers" and the upcoming "The Uke Makers"), "said Mickey, "and had already gone through the learning curve on equipment and editing programs. He has been very generous with us and helped us avoid a lot of expensive pitfalls when we were putting together the equipment for Wangden's film."

Wangden is a second-generation Tibetan living in exile in Dharamsala, India. He is a former secretary in the office of the Dalai Lama, a teacher and he and his wife are lifelong activists for Tibetan causes.

As the film's producer, Mickey has been insistent that this be a film of Wangden's design, and consistent with the philosophy of the project, without Western direction. Wangden has collected about 15 hours of footage and interviews that he will edited down to a 1 to 1.5 hour DVD. "Thanks to Paul's technical advice, we will also have a film we can project in theaters" said Mickey.

The work-in-progress version that was shown in Louisiana premiered on the West Coast at the Senior Center in Mickey's hometown of in Fort Bragg. Sixty people from the community of 5,000 attended and the showing received a half page black and white article in the Fort Bragg Advocate News.

While Mickey provided the tools for Wangden to edit his film at his home in northern India, as luck would have it, Centenary College's film department provided Wangden with an advanced editing bay and a technical assistant. Mickey flew to Louisiana and met Wangden face to face for the first time when "Voices in Exile" premiered as a work-in-progress at the museum for the opening in Shreveport. Mickey is also taking orders for this version of the DVD.

"A lot of what has happened for the project has been serendipitous," said Mickey. "We always knew we would evolve to film in motion but if you would have asked me in the beginning if there would be a Tibetan editing his film in the Deep South?...Well I would have imagined Berkeley but not Shreveport, Louisiana. I think it speaks well of the universal concern for the survival of the Tibetan people and their culture as well as an important growing concern for understanding China."

The media coverage
By the time Mickey had received the first eight rolls of images from the Norbu at Drepung, film director and actress Sazzy Lee Varga had set up a Website. A donation of 50 cameras followed from Daniel Carp, CEO of Eastman Kodak and the press began to take notice. The Advocate and the Beacon were followed by the Lake County Record-Bee and the Willits News. San Francisco Chronicle Art Critic Kenneth Baker was quick to realize this new photographic perspective of the Tibetans and in 2002, Parade Magazine introduced the project to 16 million readers.

"Creating a voice that comes directly from the Tibetans has always been one of the main goals of the project," Mickey explained. "Through the project, the combined circulation in print is over 23 million that has told some portion of Tibet's tragedy being created by China's ongoing human and cultural genocide."

For every lecture and exhibit opening, the press has paid very close attention and the variety of print media range from local and major regional newspapers to yoga magazines, new age magazines and National art, news, entertainment and photo publications. There is a complete list of published article on the media coverage link at

Flying in from India and almost before he could get over his jet-lag, The Shreveport-Times (Circulation 67K weekdays and 82K Sundays) had spent two days in interviews and photo sessions with Wangden to discuss his film and the Meadow's exhibit for a feature story.

"I got my first call from the Los Angeles press, said Mickey, "about two weeks before the exhibit opened at Antioch opened in Los Angeles from the L.A. Weekly where 215,000 readers gained some awareness about Tibet in exile because of the photos by the Tibetans.

For the Los Angeles opening, Mickey sent press packets to 42 publications in the Los Angeles area. He sent 30 into the area surrounding Shreveport. "I rarely get calls, most just run photos and text from the discs, so I never know how many people we will reach." says Mickey, "The important thing is to create something that does reach them and then when we are really lucky when it also touches their hearts. Where we can, we also try to point out that it is important for Western consumers and investors to reconsider their relationship with the 'made-in-China' label."

The press packets have also generated radio interviews, Mickey did an 8-minute interview with a Canadian version of an NPR station that was circulated to other stations via the Internet. He as been the guest twice on talk-radio in Tennessee in association with a program produced by the publisher of The Modern Tribune.

Future goals As it enters its fifth year, the project has reached several goals. Mickey says he still has a few more to work towards. "This project is a natural for a book publisher, we hope to produce more films and get those into theaters and on more TV. If we can find a retail landlord who is willing to be creative, there will be a gallery or toasting that helps the Tibetans and helps the West understand the dangers of China rising under the current dictatorship."

The Tibetan Photo Project is on the Web at :


Arrangements are being made for that exhibit to travel to Antioch's other campus locations in New Hampshire, Ohio, and Seattle. On March 10, Wangden will return to Dharamsala, India where he will finish the film. To keep up with developments, The Tibetan Photo Project co-founder Sazzy Lee Varga posts regular updates on the Website at and Mickey said we would like to hear from people who would be interested in hosting home DVD presentations with Q&A sessions.

Television With the opening in Shreveport we went statewide on Louisiana PBS with a 4-minute interview segment.

April 2005
Monday April 11, 2005 The Tibetan Photo Project at Remington College.
Sideshow-lecture entitled: The Tibetan Photo Project with Sazzy Lee Varga, celebrity and co-founder of the - The Pacific Church-San Diego, CA Lecture 8:30pm. See galley for images from the show.

Sunday, April 3-2005 The Tibetan Photo Project at The Meadows Museum at Centenary College. Slide show-lecture entitled: The Tibetan Photo Project with Joe Mickey, photojournalist and co-founder of the Tibetan Photo Project 2:00-3:00 p.m. See galley from images for the show.

February and March 2005
The Meadows Museum at Centenary College presents The Tibetan Photo Project exhibit.

February 27th through May 29th, 2005 Shreveport, Louisiana

Visit the events and presentations page for a complete list of events

In 2000, The Tibetan Photo Project got its start when North Coast photographer Joe Mickey sent the first disposable camera to a Tibetan monk living in exile at the Drepung monastery in southern India. Co-founder Sazzy Varga made it possible for the project to go on the Web.

Now in its fifth year, photos taken for the project by a small team of Tibetans photographers are creating a growing voice for their exile community. Through media coverage of The Tibetan Photo Project, some portion of the story of Chinese government's policies of human and cultural genocide inflicted on the Tibetans has been told to millions in regional and national print, via Internet links and through public radio interviews in the US and Canada.

According to Mickey, the ability of the Tibetan's images to attract attention is increasing in volume with a traveling gallery exhibit created by Lynn Holly for Antioch University's campus locations in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Antioch is also making plans to tour the exhibit at up to four more campus locations across the U.S.

Turning up the volume even higher is the extensive exhibit and program schedule created by Diane Dufilho, director of the Meadows Museum at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana.

On Feb. 26, after a year and a half of preparation, the Meadows Museum opened its doors on The Tibetan Photo Project. To highlight the photos by the exiled Tibetans, the walls of the entire first-floor gallery have been painted to match the yellow of the robes worn by Tibetan monks. On the second floor, a gallery and hallway are also filled with images.

Dufilho has balanced the photo exhibit with Tibetan artifacts, paintings and hands-on exhibits of prayer wheels, a singing bowl and monks bell. In early April, the Meadows will host Tibetan monks who will spend four days creating a sand mandala and in late April, the monks will give a cultural performance in the 1700 seat landmark Strand theater.

To coincide with the exhibit, which runs through May, Dufilho's museum staff has created a series of community outreach programs and scheduled a number of lectures in high schools and at the museum as well as initiated a citywide essay program open to high school students on the topic of Tibet. Fifty students will earn tickets to the cultural performance.

At the museum, a team of 20 volunteer docents have undergone extensive training to answer questions from visitors. The Shreveport Times (Circulation 80,000-plus) has given generous coverage to the Tibetan struggle and the project in its art section.

Mickey flew to Shreveport for the opening and also for his first face to face meeting with Tenzin Wangden Andrugtsang, one of the Tibetan photographers he has been corresponding with and supplying cameras to for the past four years. In the past year, Mickey took on the role of producer for Wangden's documentary film "Voices in Exile." Working with technical advice from Fort Bragg Filmmaker Paul Kraus, Mickey supplied Wangden with a video camera and computer editing equipment in northern India where he has been filming. "It is a natural evolution of the project to put the images in motion," said Mickey, "and now people can literally hear the voice of the Tibetans on a variety of issues."

Upon making arrangements for Wangden's visa to America, Centenary and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities offered technical support for the editing process through the school's film program.

In their first meeting, Wangden also outlined a new program being created by Centenary that will bring three Tibetan students from India every year so they can receive a full college education.

On Feb. 27, projecting from the gallery filled with photos by Tibetans and Tibetans cultural artifacts, Wangden and Mickey were able to present a 40-minute premiere of a work-in-progress to a standing-room-only crowd of Wangden's film.

The following day, media coverage went statewide when Wangden, Mickey and Dufilho were interviewed for a segment of the Louisiana television broadcast of the popular "State of Louisiana" program.

In the interview, Mickey and Wangden took turns restating information from their lectures, "Every time the media reports that the Chinese have killed one-sixth of the Tibetan population and that they continue to follow policies bent on destroying Tibet's culture, it grows the voice and it speaks to the power of a single frame of film." In this interview, another exciting development was announced, "And now, thanks to the introductions at Centenary created by the photography, there is a new educational opportunity available to some Tibetan youth with a program that will bring promising students to the U.S. for a college education at Centenary."

As Mickey sees it, "I haven't had any money to pursue this project, but when you see how it continues to develop, it is testimony to the power of every frame of film and the potential photography holds to give voice and opportunity to people who otherwise would have neither."

And what does he see as the next goal? "Our deal with the Meadows is that we get the framed prints when the show closes, so we need to find the next venue for the exhibit. We have come this far with little financial support...we find our way, like monks with begging bowls."

Mickey is planning a North Coast premiere of the 40-minute work-in-progress version of "Voices in Exile." He will return to Louisiana for a week of lectures at the beginning of April. Antioch University in Los Angeles will finish the spring semester with the Tibetan Photo Project. Arrangements are being made to open the exhibit in the fall in Ohio. On March 10, Wangden will return to Dharamsala, India where he will finish the film. To keep up with developments.

The Tibetan Photo Project co-founder Sazzy Lee Varga posts regular updates on the Website at and plans a lecture and slide show presentation in the San Diego area in April, 11th 2005 to be held at Remington College 123 Camino De La Reina San Diego, CA 92108 Suite 100 at 8:30pm.

January 2005
The opening of the Tibetan Photo Project in Los Angeles was a huge success. College students from Antioch and surrounding campuses, faculty, and even Hollywood directors turned out for the opening. Both founders; Joe Mickey and Sazzy Lee Varga where in attendance, and Joe gave a 1 1/2 hour slide show presentation along with Q and A. A wonderful Indian Buffet along with several choice wines where also enjoyed. If you missed the opening it is not to late to see the show, as it will run at the Antioch LA Campus until April 29, 2005

End 2004 - Beginning 2005 We would like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement.

As we head into our fifth year we the first exhibit through Antioch in Santa Barbara will close on January 7,2005. Antioch will open an expanded exhibit in Los Angeles on Feb. 3, 2005.

In Shreveport, Louisiana: On Feb. 27, 2005, The Meadows Museum at Centenary College will open a major exhibit that will include a lecture series and cultural exhibitions by Tibetan monks from Drepung.

If all goes well, The Meadows will be able to sponsor Wangden into the US where he will put the final cut on his feature "Voices in Exile" which is being financed in association wit The Tibetan Photo Project

We continue to add to the list of publications that are able to tell some of Tibet's struggle with China by reporting on The Tibetan Photo Project. The combined circulation is approaching 22 million.

In the past years, there have been times when determination has been our only asset. To best illustrate the shoestring we work on, it was timely donations from Canada and Latvia of $100 each and a few donations of $10 here and $20 there that have occasionally kept the Website up and the lights on.

Thank you again for your visits and efforts of support. Please continue to tell your friends, gallery owners, museum directors, editors and media news directors to look in on The Tibetan Photo Project.

Visually and Respectfully, Joe Mickey and Sazzy Varga, Founders


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China is growing in influence on the world stage. For several years it has been increasing its military spending at a rate that is over twice the growth rate of its economy. The next leader in China is likely to be Hu Jintao. His political rise, is due in large part to his implementing and maintaining of a brutal hard-line policy during his term overseeing China's control of Tibet.

There are many wonderful works that look at Tibet from the outside. The Tibetan Photo Project is designed to provide a voice to the Tibetans by exhibiting their views through their own works of photography. Their vantage point on China and their experiences in Tibet and in exile are extremely relevant to anyone trying to understand the geopolitical, military and economic designs of China in the future. The intent is to provide a view through the eyes of the Tibetan community, create a vehicle that provides an elementary introduction and links you to further study and understanding while giving a personal voice to the Tibetans that participate in this project. Because of its unique perspective, the project which began in 2000, is also catching the eye of the art world with write ups by art columnist Kenneth Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle (Feb. 5, 2002), the June 2002 edition of Art & Antiques Magazine and the Santa Barbara art and culture magazine, Head.

Please feel free to contact us about a slide show presentation and gallery exhibitions and prints. Thank you for stopping by the Tibetan Photo Project. We hope you will return often, tell your friends and please be sure to explore the links.

The needs of the project are outlined at and Help Photo Project

Visually Yours,

Joe Mickey & Sazzy Lee Varga

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