The expeditions of the 1920s and 30s gave members an opportunity to see a previously “blank space on the map” and meet the people who inhabited it. The Everest Archive holds some of the first photographs of people in this region of Tibet. Even at the time the photographs were taken, members of the expeditions realized the importance of photography in their relationships and encounters with Tibetans.
, leader of the 1921 Expedition writes:
"And here I photographed a group of several monks. They had never seen a camera or photographs before, but they had heard that such a thing was possible and were very much interested in it. Before leaving we went in to see the Head Lama who had lived over sixty-six years in this monastery. He was looked upon as being extremely holy …….. After much persuasion the other monks induced him to come outside and have his photograph taken, telling him he was an old man, and that his time on earth was short, and they would like to have a picture to remember him by……The fame of this photograph spread throughout the country and in places hundreds of miles away I was asked for photographs of the Old Abbot."
Tibetans embraced photography and were happy to oblige team members by posing for them. These images have contributed to how we see Tibet and Tibetans even today, invariably we see this place and its people set outside time.
Photo: Bentley Beetham, 1924