Kin Coedel photographs tranquil moments of everyday life in Tibet

A subtle blend between documentary and storytelling, the photographer has sensitively captured the people and places of Tibet to counter its misconception in the West.

Date
4 January 2023

Kin Coedel’s photo series Dyal Thak has a peaceful beauty that is so rare to encounter, and so special when one does. Taken in Tibet, an autonomous, Northern region of China, the series captures the essence of daily life with astounding sensitivity; people walking the mountainous terrain, families in tight embrace, a group in the midst of a ritual celebration. This likely comes from Kin’s thoughtful approach to photography as a medium. As opposed to him seeing photographs as something that are “created”, he instead sees them as something “given”. Kin says: “They are given by nature, the right landscape, weather, light and given by the subjects who give me their trust."

The series arose during the pandemic in 2021, when Kin was based in China. At this point, Covid-19 was under control in the country, and Kin was able to travel freely. First visiting Tibet for a work opportunity, Kin tells us that almost instantly he “completely fell in love with the place”. When he returned to Shanghai, he began connecting with its Tibetan community, uncovering new places to visit. He was led to Norlha Atelier, a community Kin says is predominately made up of craftswomen, who work with yak wool.

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Kin Coedel: Dyal Thak (Copyright @ Dyal Thak, 2022)

One of the reasons Kin wanted to capture Tibetan communities was to counter generalised Western perceptions of the place. While regularly depicted through photographic history, Kin explains that “Tibet is a place that is full of mystery to western culture”. And, instead, Kin sought to “look at this region in a way that is more intimate, to celebrate their mundane moments, creating narratives with what they already have in their everyday life, without exoticising this culture.”

To do so, Kin looked to aspects of life that were most important to the community. One – due to agriculture being so central to their existence – being the lunar cycle. In one image, a yak figure stands atop a grassy incline, the moon in the background almost seeming to envelop it. Technically, the piece consists solely of five simple elements: the yak, the figure, the grassy verge, the sky and the moon, but it’s something of a masterpiece. Through its soft tones and careful composition, it almost appears like a still from a film, a pivotal moment in a yet untold story. Taking two days to prepare, capturing the image was no mean feat. Trying to find the right elevation angle of the moon took many calculations, and Kin had to return to the site numerous times, which added an invigorating element of unpredictability. “I was again dazzled by how the pattern of mother nature asks us to observe, to learn and to be constantly surprised,” Kin recalls.

Entering an entirely new space, and doing justice to its uniqueness, sensibilities and people, and thus crafting an accurate sense of “place” is perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve in photography. Kin’s Dyal Thak provides a vital lesson in just how it might be done.

GalleryKin Coedel: Dyal Thak (Copyright @ Dyal Thak, 2022)

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Kin Coedel: Dyal Thak (Copyright @ Dyal Thak, 2022)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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