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A Tribute to Galen Rowell

[Robert Z. Apte, and Andres R. Edwards; Tibet Environmental Watch (TEW); August 22, 2002.]

We would like to pay tribute to the great nature photographer Galen Rowell along with his wife Barbara, who died this week in an airplane accident. He was one of the truly great mountaineers and explorers of the 20th Century. He became an influential writer on photography and a hands-on teacher of his craft. He was a dedicated friend to Tibet and an ardent leader in the environmental movement, and a friend to both of us.

Our acquaintance with him reaches back to the early 1970ıs when each year he would return from his extraordinary Himalayan exploits. The public slide shows he put on held us in awe, both of his mountaineering exploits and the beauty of his photography. A high-risk taker, he eventually explored and photographed most of the remote mountainous regions of the world. His personal strength and the strength of his personality enabled him to liaison with fearsome tribal peoples like the Gulags of Tibet to enter and photograph foreboding regions not easily reached.

Although well known as a photographer, what also needs to remembered is how he used his work to uncover the truth about environmental changes in Tibet. He was among the first to tell the world about the extent of the depletion and mass killing of wildlife in the Tibetan plateau. He returned from Tibet on one assignment from the National Geographic with extensive documentary work on the massive destruction of the monasteries. In fear of angering China, that organization refused to publish his photographic work.

As a steadfast friend of Tibet, he contributed widely to the cause. Using his photographic artwork, on many occasions he raised money for a variety of Tibetan organizations and causes. Exhibits of his work on Tibet undoubtedly garnered the interest in a wide swath of the public. It is certain that his archives will contribute much to documenting the environmental and cultural conditions following the Chinese occupation and colonization.

Galen was an environmentalist par excellence. He worked in a variety of roles to bring attention to rarely covered environmental issues. He was a firm believer and stressed that a healthy environment was a ³human right² along with all other human rights.

When we commenced our book in 1990, ³Tibet Enduring Spirit, Exploited Land² Galen met with us and advised us on its direction. Lastly, we wish to mention his generosity to us in making available his photographic library on Tibet, so that we could select specific Tibetan images for the book that would supplement the text. To have reviewed thousands of his transparencies from his Tibetan travels was indeed an awesome experience.

While Galen is gone his inspiring and gorgeous works and excellent writings on photography will remain. We know that Galen would be pleased with this gift to the world.

Robert Z. Apte, and Andres R. Edwards,

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