phil borges
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Known as the "water tower of Asia," the Tibetan Plateau is heating up twice as fast as the global average. Its glaciers are the source of the major rivers that supply the water needs of some two billion people in India, Pakistan, China, and Indochina. Today these glaciers are rapidly disappearing. This climatic change along with recent unprecedented development on the plateau—roads, railroads, airports, dams, and communication technology—is rapidly changing the lives of the deeply devotional nomads, monks, and farmers who have lived here for centuries.

With stunning imagery Phil Borges brings us face to face with some of these remarkable people, who live in one of the most fragile environments on earth, and face a rapid induction into the twenty-first century while trying to retain that which they hold most dear—their Tibetan Buddhist practice and culture.

Topics of their stories include

CLIMATE CHANGE With glaciers retreating at an accelerating rate, the traditional lifestyle of many Tibetan nomads has taken a turn for the worse. While flooding has resulted in some areas, desertification has increased in others—leaving traditional families scrambling for a way to survive. The recent ‘gold rush’ in China for caterpillar fungus is helping a little, however, hundreds of thousands of nomads and farmers are now being moved into resettlement camps.

DEVELOPMENT: In 2000 China began its "Western Development Strategy" and since then the rate at which infrastructure has been built in Tibet is nothing less than astonishing. Even nomads in the most remote parts of Tibet now have cell phones, televisions, and motorcycles. The nearly 6 million tourists, mostly Chinese, coming to Tibet annually and China’s new educational mandate for Tibetan Children are all adding up to monumental changes for the Tibetan people.

DEVOTION: Evidence of the Tibetan daily devotional practice is seen everywhere. It’s a practice intended to expand their compassion to include all “sentient beings” and remind them of our “interconnectedness”. It’s the Tibetan recipe for well-being and happiness. The generosity, laughter and singing witnessed in yak hair tents, fields and monasteries, in spite of physical hardships and meager possessions, bares testimony that Tibetans have something special.

Photographer Phil Borges introduces the reader to Tibetans as individuals rather than an anonymous part of a remote ethnic group. His first-hand interviews and portraits illustrate how dramatic development, climate change, and the deep devotion of the people are interacting to transform—for better or worse—Tibetan culture.


For over thirty years Phil Borges has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures, striving to create an understanding of the challenges they face. His work is exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and his award winning books, which have been published in four languages, include Tibetan Portrait, Enduring Spirit, and Women Empowered. He has hosted television documentaries on indigenous cultures for Discovery and National Geographic channels.

In 2004 Phil was honored with a Lucie at the International Photography Awards for his humanitarian work. In 2007 he was named by American Photo magazine as one of “10 photographers that inspire us.” Borges leads teams of photographers, filmmakers and writers to teach digital storytelling in remote communities to help give indigenous people a voice. He lectures and teaches internationally and his current projects focus on social and economic gender issues in the developing world. He graduated from University of California as a Regents Scholar in 1969 and was honored with their prestigious University of California Medal in 2004. He lives with his family in Seattle.