David Zimmerman focuses on Tibetans in exile

We first met David in Cannes in 2009 at the Sony World Photography awards.  He and his wife, Marilyn, were such charming people that we spent much of the week with them, eating drinking and of course talking photography.  David has an amazing passion for the image and believes deeply in its power to influence.  His Desert series won him both the professional Landscape award and the L’Iris D’Or (the overall award) that week.  His evocative images of light playing on the dunes of the US southwest simply astounded the judging panel.

David’s photographs are beautiful.  The way he captures light, his compositions and technical ability are phenomenal.   However his images are subtly realised and riven with a deeper meaning inspired by his deep concern for environments and people.  The Desert series were as much about the fragility of the ecosystem as its beauty, subsequent projects focused on individuals affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the eerily degraded landscape of the Salton Sea.  His present project, to examine the experience of exiled Tibetans living in northern India, will I am sure reflect his sensitive eye, but also convey the troubling times these exiles are living through.

David Zimmerman

David anticipates making 500 portraits ranging from the Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) to the lay people of Ladakh.  This aim has greatly benefitted from the personal support from HH The Dalai Lama and the CTA (an organization based in India with the stated goals of “rehabilitating Tibetan refugees and restoring freedom and happiness in Tibet“).

David Zimmerman


As well as carrying out his own work, David is collaborating with Exile Lens – a group of Tibetan photographers dedicated to preserving a visual legacy of Tibet.   This has involved running photography workshops in Dharamsala, India, to improve people’s basic skills, as well as demonstrating the storytelling and creative potential of photographs.  David has been overwhelmed by his pupils’ enthusiasm, so much so that it crossed is mind to give up photography and become a teacher instead!

David frequently writes about the warmth and generosity of the people he is with.  I imagine that he makes friends quickly and this desire to get to know his subject only enhances the sensitivity of his portraits.    On one occasion, in Ladakh, he tells me that he, a complete stranger, asked a mother if he could take away her children for an hour or so to take their photographs.  She replied with “Yes, but would you like to have some tea first?”.  A level of trust that I, as a mother in the UK, find difficult to imagine but it is perhaps indicative of both him and Ladakhi society.

This is an exciting and important long-term project, I look forward to seeing the results and sharing them with you.