1978, Ladakh, India
Plate 01, 27x18
These two girls were standing in the courtyard outside Hemis Monastery, the world's highest. When I first saw them, I was touched by the contrast between their simple dress, which was somewhat worn and dusty, and their beautiful olive skin and large dark, questioning eyes - the most beautiful I had ever seen. I asked Nima, my Sherpa, if he would inquire if I might take their picture. The older girl said yes immediately, and the little girl simply smiled. The two girls were holding hands at the time that they agreed to the photo, and I asked that they stand near a low wall. The older girl was so anxious to get on with things that as she turned quickly towards the wall the little girl, unaware and quite a bit shorter, went a full half foot off the ground. After the turn and her return to the firmness of the earth, I remember saying to myself, "I have never seen a more awestruck, inquiring expression in my life."
They moved quickly, yet so effortlessly, they seemed to glide from place to place. You would look away and then look up and see them at the other end of the courtyard. The two girls had a beauty and a grace, an eagerness and an interest that seemed almost magical, that seemed to come silently from the depth of the soul - the outer world being so sparse, so devoid of the material elements that I had always had available to me. They didn't have them from the outside. Even the air had only a fraction of the oxygen in it, compared to my air at sea level. The two girls had a beauty without much help from their environment, which at this altitude was very sparse. The color of their eyes and hair were so vivid as to seem almost iridescent.