For all its wonderfulness, Portland is everything but diverse. Named (somewhere) the whitest city in the United States, there still stands an ugly symbol of segregation in North Portland. I haven’t seen it, and, frankly, I don’t want to, but I’m told the old “white side, black side” sign continues to rear its ugly head as a reminder of how bad things used to be. Sometimes I wonder if that sign is still obeyed.
I grew up in the Bay Area and, although it’s been eleven years since I’ve lived there, I find I still long for a city where you pass all shades of brown while walking down the street. Don’t get me wrong, there are people of color here (and there), but in pockets. Head deep into north Portland, and you’ll come across black neighborhoods. Head deeper into southeast, and you’ll find the Latino community. I know there are Greek, Italian and Indian (native and country) neighborhoods in Portland, I just don’t know where they are. Yeah, it makes me a little sad.
Surprisingly, there is a culture in Portland that very much has a presence. And all you have to do is wander into any Whole Foods, take a look around and you’ll find the beautiful faces of Tibet. I won’t pretend to know that much about Tibetans. I probably know about as much as you. What I do know, that you may not, is that their traditions are very much alive in Portland and the community here is very tightly knit. I also know a little bit of what it took some of them to get here and away from Chinese violent oppression. Stories that will make your stomach cramp up and your heart weep. Stories that I wish I could share with you, and although I am privy to some of them, it would be wrong for me to share without proper consent. Know this however, it is as bad as you imagine it to be.
Then there’s our friend Lopsang. A beautiful Tibetan who grew up in India with a British education, and who is one interesting guy.
We’re just getting to know Lopsang and his stories air more on the side of naughty British schoolboy than trekking the Himalayas for 40 days without food or water, but interesting nonetheless. He recently dreaded his hair and it reminded me of a personal project I started about a year ago: portraits of people in their environment. I’ve been so deep into food photography that this project sort of fell by the wayside, you can see where I left off here. But what better way to pick it up again than with such and interesting face such as Lopsang’s?
If anyone else in Portland is interested in less traditional portraits, send me a note!