Rangzen is a Tibetan word meaning "Freedom," or "Independence." Tibet's struggle for independence is a long, hard fight based on non-violence, love, and compassion for all sentient beings.
For 71 years Tibet has been under illegal occupation by the Chinese Community Party. During the occupation in 1959 over 150,000 Tibetans escaped into exile and an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans lost their lives. A culture based around the deeply rooted traditions of Buddhism is being uprooted, monitored, and every action is being taken to ensure complete and total eradication of the Tibetan way of life.
A decade later during the cultural revolution over six thousand monasteries and nunneries were destroyed, monks and nuns jailed, tortured, and forced to disrobe with intention to destroy the critical system component of Tibet's large monastic system, the very structure of Tibet's enlightened culture.
Present day Tibet is rapidly changing and modernizing under China's rule. It's now estimated that around 7.5 million Han Chinese have been resettled into Tibet, making Tibetans the minority in their own country. It's becoming ever more difficult to do the one thing they want most, to simply be Tibetan, thus resulting in over 156 self-immolations in Tibet since 2009.
This portfolio highlights the Tibetan community of New York who work tirelessly for their brothers and sisters inside Tibet. What started as a series of three portraits during a hunger strike in front of the United Nations building, I spent two years photographing 50 Tibetan's during protests and rallies on the streets of New York City.
Where most strive to focus on the individual story this portfolio takes a more fundamental approach by bringing together those in favor of the middle way and complete independence, unifying the Tibetan people as one. Photographed as individuals and presented by collage as one people, one culture, fighting the same struggle, removed from the tension of dividing politics the strength in numbers becomes a clear, unified voice. One that I hope will penetrated deep within the viewer, for awareness is the key to change.
These are Tibet's Rangzen Warriors.