Writer and photographer Thomas Laird’s 10-year project records crumbling Buddhist murals before they are lost. They are some of the greatest treasures of Tibetan Buddhist culture: ancient murals showing the life of the Buddha and the secrets of meditation.
Many are hidden in remote monasteries or temples whose walls are crumbling, but a remarkable project has recorded the paintings before they disappear forever. The American photographer and writer Thomas Laird spent a decade living among yak herders, farmers and monks while travelling across the Tibetan plateau in search of masterpieces that few have been able to see, let alone photograph.
The result is 998 copies of Murals of Tibet, an enormous – more than 2-foot-long – publication. All copies have been signed and blessed by the Dalai Lama, whose first lessons in Buddhism came from some of the murals before he could even read. Many of the paintings have become visible for the first time through Laird’s work. Some were created in windowless areas so high up on the wall that only fragments of the vast paintings have been glimpsed with torches and binoculars.