In 1959, following the failed Tibetan uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge in India. Soon after that, thousands of Tibetans followed suit in order to escape religious and cultural persecution.
Tsering Topgyal, a Tibetan photographer currently working for the Associated Press based in New Delhi, has produced a body of work documenting the plight of Tibetan exiles now living in India.
Like so many other Tibetans before him, Topgyal was eight years old when his parents paid a smuggler to take him across the Himalayan Mountains on a week-long journey by foot from Tibet to Dharamsala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India. He has not seen his family since.
In 2007, while studying English Literature at a college near Mumbai, Topgyal took photography classes in the evening and began freelancing for the Associated Press in New Delhi a year later. He began photographing his schoolmates and others who were smuggled out of Tibet at an early age, and he soon realized that the photo document as a powerful tool to show the world the difficulties Tibetan exiles faces. “The great tragedy of my life is not being separated from my family,” he said to the New York Times, “but being separated from the sensibility of missing them after living without them for decades.”
Billy Kung is photo editor at ArtAsiaPacific.