Portraits of Tibet Unveiled at the Drescher Hall Gallery

On Saturday, Oct. 25, an opening reception was held at Santa Monica College's Drescher Hall for photographer Adva Bar-Lev's photographs of Tibet. Displayed were 40 photographs Bar-Lev took for a month in the summer of 2006 in central and western Tibet on a whim.

"I went to Tibet because I was interested in the people and the landscape and you always hear about Free Tibet, and going there to see the real people really made me understand the whole concept," Bar Lev said.

She hopes people will understand and learn from her photographs. "It's not so much about learning about Tibet but getting a real look at really seeing the people that live there," Bar Lev said.

Many photographs show the beauty of the country and candids of Tibetans in their daily lives. In the photograph "Cards, Cigarettes, and Beer" Tibetans are passing the time playing poker in a bar, smoking and drinking beer.

"Nomad Smile," a photograph which shows a child wearing traditional Tibetan clothing smiling, evokes the friendliness and warmth of these people who have been under the rule of the People's Republic of China since 1950.

A photograph that brings to mind the poverty that is happening in that nation is "Begging with a Baby" in which a Tibetan man is carrying a sleeping child in his arms while holding money in one hand as he walks through a crowded street. He stands out in the crowd as he looks for people to give him money.

"I'm a long time fan, and I am thrilled to see this perspective of Tibet shown here and very proud of her," said Karmit Bar-Lev, the photographer's sister. "This show is extraordinary, Bar-Lev has done an amazing job of getting crisp details of images of Tibet. 'Jokhang Morning' and 'Hands' definitely captures motion," said Ping Ho, an art lover. The photograph "Jokhang Morning" is a color photo that looks black and white.

A few Tibetans stand and sit in a town square in what looks like the morning and all you see are their silhouettes and the morning mist floating around them. "Hands" shows the hand of a monk holding a beaded necklace.

Bar- Lev is a SMC photo department alum and has been photographing for 15 years. Her work includes fashion, portraits, and documentary photography taken in places such as Europe, the Middle East, Cuba and Tibet.

With SMC roots, Bar- Lev always intended of coming back to SMC to show these photos while she was in Tibet."I studied in the photo department, and while I was in Tibet a couple summers back, I'd always hoped to come back and thought maybe I'll show these photos.

I love SMC because I studied photography here and it was good for me," Bar-Lev said.
When asked what advice she would give to current SMC photographer students, Bar-Lev said, "In photography, there's so many things you can do and they told us that usually what we start out with is how we end it, and that's true, it shifts throughout the years, you get into two different aspects of photography and I would just say do what you love to do."
There is a plaque when before you enter the photo gallery that states Bar-Lev's expectation that the photo exhibit will provide a more intimate portrait of the people and the culture that quietly continue behind the headlines.

The Portraits of Tibet runs until Dec. 12 on the second floor of Drescher Hall on the SMC Main Campus.