Living Otherwise: Buddhist Photography on the New Silk Road

The Politics of Tian Lin's Images

Tian Lin’s images mirror Tian Lin’s politics. For Tian Lin the feeling of being political comes from when he is concentrating on the lives of others. For him, politics is a way of changing how we should live together. What I want to argue here is that in practice, Tian Lin's politics is a form of living otherwise. He is living with conscious awareness of radical ethnic differences and, in doing so, actively attempting to transform how people live together. This political activity take place in homes, around kitchen tables. Hanging out with Uyghur friends on the porches or courtyards of their homes. Listening to their troubles and sharing in their pain. He feels connected when he advocates for them and when they accept gifts of food and share their meals with him. He says things like: “Taking photos is a life practice. In the chaos of the present, the simplicity of watching, forces people, who might merely want to soak in salon-style art at their leisure, to return to the inner stillness and bareness of life: you must go by yourself, see for yourself. You have to start from the periphery of the city and continue on alone. Walk silently while facing those scenes and emotions that your camera lens are unable to hold.” "I didn't start out wanting to take pictures of minorities. This wasn’t my goal at all. I wanted to take pictures of life in the city. I had no real purpose in taking these pictures. There was nothing behind it. I was just drawn to this sort of life. Of course through the process I learned a lot about these people’s lives. Many of them were just really poor people, who came to the city to try to make some money peddling clothes or fruit. At times they made some money, but other times they really had very little.”

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