Sunday, June 26, 2011

Seoul Visit: Richard Gere spotlights Tibetan plight in photos

Richard Gere shared personal photographs which he says attest to the cruelty inflicted by the Chinese on Tibetans in Seoul Wednesday.
An avid Buddhist and supporter of the Dalai Lama, the Hollywood actor took the initiative to make strong political statements regarding human rights in Tibet.

“No one wanted to ask a political question so I will answer one anyhow,” Gere told the local press ahead of the opening of an exhibition at Seoul Arts Center displaying some 60 images he took in various Asian countries, when the event organizers refrained from interpreting political questions posed by reporters.
“I think it’s impossible to look at these photographs and not realize the extraordinary suffering of the Tibetan people. There’s one really strong image there that is undeniable,” he said, referring to a collection of shots he took in the late-1980s in Dharmasala, India.
The collage is comprised of shots of a mural featuring Tibetan nuns being tortured by the Chinese as well as an image of three nuns he had met in China in 1993, the only time Gere was allowed to enter China.
“(The nuns) told me exactly the same stories (as the drawings) so I included a picture of them in (the) montage... I think when you see these photographs you have to be aware of the political situation there and really understand the depth of where I was coming from in offering them in this exhibition,” he said.
The 62-year-old voiced concern that similar human rights violations are still happening today.
“The same kind of torture and the same kind of deaths are occurring in Chinese prisons in Tibet today. Of course it’s not only in Tibet, but the Chinese communist government does it to their own people in China today.”
He went on to elicit more related questions from the press but organizers interfered, noting time constraints.
Gere, best known through films such as “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Pretty Woman” and “Chicago,” said it was his first time to share his photographs.
“A lot of these photographs I didn’t show anyone because it’s such a private experience for me. I had no interest really in sharing them,” the actor said, explaining that photography had been a longtime hobby ever since his parents handed him a toy camera as a child.
“That process (of taking photographs) is very similar to making a movie; you’re somehow compressing lives into (a) frame,” he said, adding that it is ultimately an emotional, rather than rational, experience.
“I must say I felt very emotional seeing these photographs, because they really are a part of my very deep and intimate experience with my Tibetan brothers and sisters... The organizers did a beautiful job framing them.”
Though Gere has been in Korea numerous times, it was only to transfer onto flights to Tibet, and was ecstatic when local organizers approached him with the idea of displaying the images in public. He also mentioned special connections with Korea via the Dalai Lama, who has many cherished Korean disciples.
He noted the transmission of Buddhism from the Himalayan region to Korea, where it “obviously had such a rich and deep impact on Korean culture.” He said. ”I’m very happy to be here and see the beautiful country for the first time.”
The actor took the time Tuesday to visit the Seoul headquarter of the Jogye Order, the largest sect of Korean Buddhism and said it was a memorable experience. He said he had vegetarian Korean temple food at a restaurant near the temple, and called it “one of the best meals of my life.”
The exhibition “Pilgrim: Photography by Richard Gere” continues through July 24 at V-Gallery, Seoul Arts Center. Actress Yun Jeong-hie (“Poetry”) and her husband, the pianist Paik Kun-woo, attended the opening ceremony of the event. The collection also features thematic works contributed by 24 famed photographers including Annie Leibovitz and Jerry Uelsmann. Visit for more information.

Source: Korea Times

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