How to Photograph the 14th Dalai Lama

How was it that I came about to photograph the 14th Dalai Lama? 
Recently an image of mine was featured on Monovisions Photography Awards. A nice touch, but the highlight of this adventure was actually getting to meet the Dalai Lama. This print is not for sale, but I only wanted the experience of photographing and meeting him! 

How it all began:

Believe it or not, it all started after watching Seven Year's in Tibet, you know, the movie with Brad Pitt? Anyway, my team was sitting around sipping Coke (in a glass bottle - it's better that way), and the discussion began.

"Hey, wouldn't it be great to meet and photograph the Dalai Lama?" to which the reply was, a unanimous, "Yes!!"

So leaving it with my Studio Manager Avigail and after about a year of her coercing with gatekeepers and starting all over again after numerous and unanimous "No's", - luckily I chose to hire a manager who refused to let no be final!

Getting in was tough, getting in front of him, even tougher:

I thought I would end up climbing a mountain (originally) but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself standing in front of His Holiness in the city of Vancouver. Avigail had worked her magic and booked us a flight to the nearby city.  It turned out that he was there for a speaking event and we were to be with him for a full day, following him from location to location, waiting for the moment when we could, well... have a moment. As you can imagine, he was surrounded by people and to have even a few minutes of his time seemed impossible. One of his stops was at a local school, where he would meet some children in a small library just before speaking to the entire school. We were told he would enter in a certain door, only to find out he would enter through another (although I had a feeling about this and was at the ready).

After waiting for some time, he entered the room from that side door. All was hushed and there was an air of excitement and electricity in the room. I wouldn't say there was a quiet reverence but there were small murmurings coming from the children and others - and all eyes were on him. Avigail and I were jostled and pushed around by the surrounding crowd.

I watched as his bodyguards (who were dressed in stiff suits and ties) blocked him from all sides and kept the groups away, but one woman, an elderly woman standing beside me, broke from the group and rushed to take him by his hand. He smiled and looked her directly in the eye, as if she was the only person in the room and said something quietly to her. She replied back and began to weep. He made his way straight over to the children and he sat among them as if he was one of them. I believe he truly was at that time. His heart was one of a child's and something I would watch for (photographically) in the day ahead. 

The Blessing
It was time for him to make his big speech where thousands were waiting for him. He paused for me momentarily just before he left the building and smiled while I snapped off a few images. He left and we were ushered in by the media team shortly after to the front of the large venue room. It was quite dark except for the stage which had seating for him, his translator and a few others and as he entered onto the stage he stood there for a moment and looked around at all the people in the crowd. My camera (with my on-camera flash) was rapidly firing and my trusty photographic back-up Avigail (to my right) had her camera with her as well, but as I quickly glanced at her, I saw she wasn't shooting. She just stood there looking at the Dalai Lama. I went back to what I was doing and out of my peripheral, I saw her slowly raise her hand and just wave to him. Through my camera I saw him smile, slightly bow and bless her. That was the shot! Incredible! We call this image "The Blessing" since it was based right out of a personal experience; a moment between her and the Dalai Lama, and it was wonderful. 

Meeting him was fantastic and the photo went on to awards and honorable mentions since then. I continue to travel and make art and I am always on the hunt for works that will inspire. This one is certainly to remain as inspirational to me on the books! This image is not for sale, but I do keep it on the studio wall to remember the experience. 

A special thanks to Seven Years in Tibet for the trigger on this just never know where you will end up from one moment to the next. Depending on what you are going to do about it, that is!  

Check out our site which offers prints and gifts and other great stuff and if you ever want to drop us a line, please feel free anytime. We are at info [at]

Thanks for dropping by and keep on adventuring!

~ Ben
"The World is My Wilderness" ~ Ben's Art Den





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