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news

American photographer finds Tibet, but no Shangri-La

imageVIDEO
CNN International's Riz Khan talks with Photojournalist Steve Lehman
Windows Media 28K 80K

September 15, 1999
Web posted at: 2:16 p.m. EDT (1816 GMT)

(CNN) -- Photojournalist Steve Lehman first went to Tibet in search of paradise, but he ended up discovering what he calls a "tragic dichotomy" of the Himalayan hideaway, and documenting a decade-long struggle for Tibetan freedom.

The Los Angeles-based photographer was "stuck by the physical beauty and how kind the people" were in the devoutly Buddhist enclave high in the mountains. At the same time, Lehman said, "the more time you spend there, you realize how politically repressive a place Tibet is."

Just out of college, Lehman took his camera and documented the bloody Chinese National Day demonstrations on October 1, 1987. "To witness people being shot dead in the streets ... it had a very, very powerful impact on me."

The monks especially moved Lehman; despite their vows of non-violence he saw them pick up stones and hurl them at police and soldiers in one of the most dramatic clashes of the independence movement.

An eight-year-old boy who was shot in the back by Chinese forces during rioting is carried away. He later died from his wound.

His award-winning photograph book, "The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive," is scheduled for publication in Europe this week. It was released earlier this year in the U.S.

Lehman, 35, said he "used a scrapbook approach to give a feel of immediacy and show the intensity" of the violence in the beautiful land. His book was honored with a first place award for best use of photography in a book in the Picture of the Year competition, sponsored by the National Press Photographer's Association.

Lehman recently sat down with CNN International for an extensive interview to talk about his book, about Tibet, and about the Chinese.


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