Harrison is an American psychiatrist and photographer who became drawn to the plight of the many Tibetans who have sought refuge in India and elsewhere since the Chinese takeover of Tibet. Over the course of three visits toting a bulky panoramic "banquet" Canham camera, he interviewed and photographed these people, poignantly capturing their stories of extreme hardships and suffering, imprisonment, torture, flight across frigid mountain passes, and separation from family and friends. The Dalai Lama's foreword is just a few sentences, and there are two other brief essays, but this book is primarily a photographic essay. A number of recent books (e.g., Steve Lehman's The Tibetans: A Struggle To Survive, LJ 3/1/99) have described the plight of the people of Tibet. This one differs in that it concerns only those who have left their homeland. It does not delve deeply into Tibetan culture nor the complex causes of its crises, but it is a visually powerful book documenting its human tragedies. Larger public libraries with special concerns for Tibetan culture will want this book.-Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
As a psychiatrist, Stephen Harrison makes his living engaging in conversations about topics that are sensitive and often emotional in content. Through his clinical practice, he has come to discover the beauty in human beings whose lives have been ravaged and scarred by traumas and sufferings.
As a photographer, he has always wanted to photograph the people who tell their stories and document their experience for others. That opportunity materialized in 1996, when an interest in Buddhist psychology piqued his interest in Tibet. Three times he traveled to India, specifically Mussoorie and Dharamsala, to photograph Tibetan exiles and refugees, hear their stories, and attempt to make some sense of the tales for the rest of us.
In February, he departed from Santa Barbara, California, for Mussoorie with his 7" x 17" Canham camera, 400 sheets of film, and five cumbersome cases of equipment stacked five feet high and weighing 400 pounds. His working backpack alone, fully loaded, weighed in excess of 65 pounds!
Born in 1943 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Stephen Harrison took his first photography classes as an undergraduate at Purdue University and pursued that interest while completing B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees there in Electrical Engineering. Two years later, while photographing constantly, he served as Visiting Lecturer at the Norwegian Institute of Technology. During the year he spent in Scandinavia he accumulated over three thousand negatives.
Returning to the United States, Harrison became interested in psychology and completed a master's degree at Antioch University, followed by an M.D. Degree from Yale University. He then went on to complete a psychiatry residency at the University of California/Los Angeles.
However, over the past thirty years, his photography interests and work in the darkroom have remained a constant, and burning avocation. Beyond the actual photographing, he enjoys making fine images and exploring new technologies for producing them. His background and interest in engineering and science have taken him through various mediums and techniques. He first used silver gelatin as his photosensitive material of choice, then switched to platinum and palladium printing. Today he is excited about digital imaging, and for the past year has been working full speed in this endeavor.
As a photographer, Harrison has several areas of interest which have emerged over time. Landscapes compose an important part of his work including, for the past four years, several months annually spent in Alaska. He has also photographed Southwest Desert areas, Death Valley, the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, and the San Juan River flowing through Arizona and New Mexico.
First evident in his work in Norway, Harrison's interest in people and portraits continues today. His Tibetan project combines fine art portraiture as well as technical expertise with the power and relevance of personal narrative from both the refugees and the photographer. Several of these prints have been exhibited previously in a juried exhibition at the Frameworks and De La Guerra Gallery, in one-man shows at Sullivan Goss Books & Print and The F Stops Here gallery, all of which are located in Santa Barbara, California. His work is represented by Sullivan Goss, the Peter Fetterman Gallery (Santa Monica, CA), and the John Stevenson Gallery (New York City).
Today Harrison considers himself foremost a photographer although he is still a practicing psychiatrist in Los Angeles. A portion of the profits from WHISPERED PRAYERS will be contributed to Tibetan causes. Currently, he is a founder of the Tibetan Multicultural Educational Center in Dharamsala, a director of a scholarship program for older refugees in Dharamsala, a supporter of the Tibetan Homes School in Mussoorie, and on the Board of Directors of Friends of Tibetan Women Association (Santa Barbara, CA).