Ginger Chih

Ginger Chih has been documenting her worldwide life and travels for over four decades. She was born in Beijing, China, to a Chinese father and a mother who is half Japanese and half indigenous Chinese. At the age of three, her family fled China when Communists came to power. Settling in Japan, then the United States, and later the United Kingdom, Ginger has experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual traumas that arise from migration.

Ginger started her photography career in New York City with a focus on multiculturalism. She collaborated on a book, A Place Called Chinese America, that tells the story of Chinese immigrant history.

In her professional life, Ginger worked as a management consultant and executive coach in the USA, Asia and Europe from 1988. She holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a Ph.D from Cambridge University where she wrote her thesis about multicultural workplace dynamics in China. As an executive coach, she found that integrating the teachings of the Dalai Lama resulted in more harmonious workplace relationships and deeper understanding of cultural differences.

As a student of Tibetan Buddhist teachings and its meditative practices, she applied her skills as a photographer to document the Tibetan Diaspora and its preservation of cultural and national identity in exile. Over the past ten years, Ginger has photographed her numerous visits to over two dozen Tibetan refugee communities in India and Nepal. Ginger has taken photographs of various aspects of the Tibetan community, showing day-to-day life with residents in educational, religious, and cultural activities. She has an ability to draw out people’s stories which she has incorporated into her narrative. This is her gift to the Tibetan community and her way to express appreciation by preserving and sharing its culture.

The Dalai Lama has taken a special interest in this project and granted access to his archival photos and private living areas. Those who read her manuscript and see her photographs will have a first-hand experience of the sights and sounds of Tibetan culture in exile. She is currently compiling these photographs into a book, The Dalai Lama: Preserving Tibetan Culture in Exile.

Artist’s Statement

When I first started this project, I was looking for images that stood out to me that were unique to the Tibetan culture. I have had the privilege to meet the Tibetan refugees who invited me to share their homes and their lives. Because of the intimacy that I felt in sharing their experience with me, I looked for images that captured my imagination and heart. This gave me the desire to express the spirit of the Tibetan diaspora.

Photography is a tool which allows me to access elements of my true self. When I photograph, I feel freedom from cultural constraints in a way that language does not. When I speak Chinese, English or Japanese, I think in those languages and each have their unique cultural characteristics and identity. In a way, I feel compartmentalized. Photography, on the other hand, is integrating and so photography allows me to be me. This Tibet project unites many aspects of my life—my understanding of the emotional effects of migration, my interest to listen deeply to people’s stories and my study of Tibetan Buddhism.