Exhibition: Olivier Jammes, a French photographer and an economist has been living in Bhutan for the last three years. This has given him the opportunity to go where other photographers don’t, to document Bhutan as usually not shown in photography books.

A photo exhibition titled ‘Are You There?’ is Olivier Jammes’s tribute to Bhutan and its people. The exhibition portrays the lives of ordinary Bhutanese people who work in car workshops to cobblers, jewellery makers, scrap collectors to construction workers.

The exhibition also includes landscapes and sceneries in remote places as a tribute to Bhutan’s preserved environment. Pictures are all taken using only natural light. None were staged.

Olivier Jammes has been travelling the world with his family. In the last 25 years he has lived on four continents and visited countless countries, working as an international consultant and taking pictures.

A central and persistent focus of Olivier Jammes’ work is the relationship between photography and self-esteem.

“When we look in the magazines, we see beautiful people but when we look in the mirror, we don’t find ourselves beautiful. So I wanted to let people, whose picture I took, to let them know that they are beautiful and help them develop a positive self-image,” Olivier Jammes said. “I give their pictures back whenever possible. So far, I have distributed more than 1,500 copies.”

When I come back with the picture, it helps me develop a relationship and connection with the people. I have been invited to countless lunches and drinks at people’s homes because the connection is there, Olivier Jammes said.

“I specialise in portraits because I like the intimate relationship and trust it helps me build with people. I like finding a magic moment where the person is just at their best. I have met the people in the photographs many times. Although the shyness of the personality is still there in the photographs but the lack of trust is gone,” Olivier Jammes said.

Since his arrival to the country, Olivier Jamme felt a strong sense of urgency to take photographs, Olivier Jammes said. “Bhutan is at a turning point and I wanted to capture that in my photographs. Through the exhibition, I also wanted to show the contrast between tradition and new things coming with economic development.”

As a gesture of support, all proceeds from the sale of the photographs will be donated to the projects dedicated to the welfare of recovering addicts in the country, Olivier Jammes said.

“Youth addiction in Bhutan is a growing problem. Like elsewhere in the world, the root causes of such issues are deep and complex and require a long term and multifaceted approach to resolve,” he said. “In the short term, however, drug-addicted youth require rehabilitation treatment, guidance and job training for them to quit their addiction and rebuild their broken lives. A few very dedicated individuals have developed projects that offer this kind of support, but they require funds.”

Drug addiction is a social issue and so requires a social response. Basically, it is important that we all commit ourselves to assisting our youth to develop into confident, caring and well-adjusted adults, Olivier Jammes said.

The photo exhibition started from May 21 and will be open until June 5. This is his second exhibition held so far, the first was held in Laya where he gave the communities back their photographs.

Thinley Zangmo