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The cold border. A himalayan winter

Ladakh, India - December 2016. Rangdum valley, on the way to Phuktal monastery.
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Ladakh, India – December 2016. Rangdum valley, on the way to Phuktal monastery.

The cold border. A himalayan winter, photo essay by Jacopo La Forgia

The region of Ladakh is nestled in one of the roughest and most inaccessible areas of the Himalayas, it’s historically tied to Tibet with which it also shares its chief religion – Tibetan Buddhism – and to which it was previously commercially tied. In fact, Ladakh played a key role in trading with Central and Southern Asia, but following the closure of the Chinese border, it’s undergone a process of strong isolation. Resultantly, thereafter the Buddhist schools of thought in the region have had a more autonomous development.

In the photos I capture the winter life of Phuktal monastery in which I stayed for a time – one of the most important and ancient monasteries of Ladakh. I also photographed the journey that you have to make in winter to reach it: fifty miles on a frozen river amongst the Himalayan peaks. Due to the remote position of the monastery, monks’ way of life has remained the same over the centuries, and the influence of globalisation has been minimal; at the same time however, the indifference of the Indian central government for this border region has put a strain on the members of the community who, because of the lack of infrastructure and concrete aid, risk their lives every winter.

(by Jacopo La Forgia

Ladakh, India – December 2016. Phuktal from the top.
Ladakh, India – December 2016. This old monk walks around the stupa (the conic monument which keeps the ashes of an ancient monk) for 40 times every morning.
Ladakh, India – December 2016. Morning prayers.
Ladakh, India – December 2016. Kids playing at night just outside my room.

In the photos I capture the winter life of Phuktal monastery in which I stayed for a time – one of the most important and ancient monasteries of Ladakh. I also photographed the journey that you have to make in winter to reach it: fifty miles on a frozen river amongst the Himalayan peaks. Due to the remote position of the monastery, monks’ way of life has remained the same over the centuries, and the influence of globalisation has been minimal; at the same time however, the indifference of the Indian central government for this border region has put a strain on the members of the community who, because of the lack of infrastructure and concrete aid, risk their lives every winter.

(by Jacopo La Forgia

Ladakh, India – December 2016. Kids playing playing in Phuktal tunnels.
Ladakh, India – December 2016. Early morning in the terrace. The monks spend here most of their time.
Ladakh, India – December 2016. A portrait of the oldest monk of the monastery, Tinlé.
Ladakh, India – January 2016. I am following on the way back to the capital of Ladakh. In winter it can be reached only walking on a frozen river.
Ladakh, India – January 2016. Testing the quality of the ice.
Ladakh, India – January 2016. Walking back and forth on the ice.
Ladakh, India – January 2016. A moment of relax on the frozen river.

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Jacopo La Forgia
I was born in Rome in 1990 and now I am based in Venice. I started taking pictures when I was 19, initially only analog and since 2014 also digital. In 2016, after finishing my master in philosophical aesthetics, photography became my profession. I published reportage on the New Delhi landfill and on 2016 Kashmir unrest, and I worked on a long project on Himalayan winter. My photographic and anthropological research focuses on border areas. My purpose is to witness the life of communities at the periphery of the world, those neglected or forgotten places which reality is not easy to imagine. I try to make it visible.

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