Breckenridge photographer Timothy Faust will show his Faces of the Himalaya exhibition at the Altitude Gallery. Proceeds from sales of the prints will help fund medical treatments and education in Nepal and Tibet.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Christmas season is a time of giving, and that’s what local photographer Timothy Faust will do in January, when he donates proceeds from the sale of framed prints to a pair of nonprofit medical groups working in Nepal and Tibet. Faust took the photos during a recent trip to that part of the world.
“Returning with all of these images made me feel like I had took something of value from the Himalayas without having given much back,” Faust said. “I was trying to find something I could do. While I was there, I had the opportunity to visit a school for the blind built by Braille without Borders. It was amazing how little money it took to put a person through the school in Tibet. Equally amazing was just how much it could change a person’s life there.”
According to official statistics, 30,000 of the 2.5 million inhabitants of the Tibet Autonomous Region are blind or highly visually impaired. Compared to most areas in the world this is well above the average ratio.
The causes of visual impairment or blindness are both climatic and hygienic: Dust, wind, high ultra-violet light radiation, soot in houses caused by heating with coal and yak dung and lack of vitamin A at an early age. Inadequate medical care also plays a role. Cataracts are widespread.
Governmental and private organizations have set up eye camps where medical surgery is being performed and local doctors are taught to do the procedure. However, there is a large group of blind people that can’t be helped this way. For this group of people, the rehabilitation and training center for the blind has been established.
“In spite of living in relative poverty, the people of Tibet were friendly and open. They had a sense of humor about life that I was immediately inspired to photograph,” Faust said. The same held true for the people of Nepal. I was only there for a relatively short time, but I ended up returning home with hundreds of portraits of the people of the Himalayas.”
The resulting exhibition, Faces of the Himalaya, traveled to other galleries before finding its way back to Altitude Gallery in Breckenridge next month. Faust said the money from the sale of a single framed print is enough to put one student through school for several months. Outside help is needed to create other avenues for disabled people, Faust said.
“In a country like Tibet, a disabled person has few opportunities outside of begging,” he said.
Attitudes about disabilities in Nepal and Tibet are still shaped by a fundamental belief in karma, he explained. People with disabilities are viewed as paying a karmic debt, so there hasn’t been much effort to help them. Additionally, Chinese political influence has resulted in a one-size-fits-all educational establishment, he added.
“My doctor here in Breckenridge had often told me about a clinic he had helped to build in the Langtang region of Nepal while he was there,” Faust said. “And although I didn’t have time to travel there myself, I decided to donate the purchase price of the portraits I created to help benefit the school and the clinic he had built through Doctors to the World.”
Faust is an award winning photographer whose editorial work can be seen in magazines like National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Trail Runner, Freeskier, and many others. He combines his love of photography with his passion for the outdoors and travel to create compelling landscape and adventure imagery. He also writes a seasonal weekly photography column for The Summit Daily News.
Faust loves shooting with digital, but his roots are in black and white print film and color slide film. He understands the importance of getting the capture right in camera. He recently had one of his old digital cameras converted to black and white infrared in order to get that moody look he remembers from film.
“I love the mountains and the outdoors, but my favorite thing about traveling (aside from eating exotic foods) is getting a chance to meet with people from different cultures around the world,” he said. “Before leaving for Asia, I had planned on photographing landscapes, mountains, rivers, and ancient monasteries. However, after a few days of traveling through Tibet, I was really drawn to the people there.”
The opening reception for Faces of the Himalaya is set for Jan. 9, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Altitude Fine Art Photography Gallery in Breckenridge (107 Main Street, 970-453-2192). Faust will be there along with local Doctor Perrinjaquet (Doc PJ), who will talk about his work building clinics in Nepal.