Dalai Lama

I never thought I’d hear my name in the same sentence as the Dalai Lama, let alone with the words ‘Are you free to photograph…’ separating us. It turned out not to be a hoax, and there I found myself with Steven (a journalist at The Big Issue) on a Cambridge Street at 8.50am on a September morning, waiting to be collected and taken to a mysterious location. The whole week preceding had been fueled by secrecy over whether it was happening, how long we would have, where it would be, and whether I would even have time to take any photographs! There was so much enigma around the shoot that I ended up lying to a cab driver who had spent most of the journey telling me the ‘DL’ was in town and how the road I was being dropped at had been clogged all week because of it. Spying my kit, he asked what I was in town for, but in my paranoia of not knowing whether I was allowed to say, I told him I was photographing a writer. Called Steven. He’s er a journalist. Needless to say he didn’t look like he believed me, and despite the flush of my face from lying, the atmosphere dropped a degree or two until finally we arrived at my destination. I would be terrible in the Secret Service.

We were chaperoned into a nearby building, buzzing with friendly security personnel and members of the tour team. I was told to set up my lights in a separate room so that I could transport them through when ready (a good sign for my photo op!), and then we just had to sit, wait and nervously chat. That’s when we discovered we were actually sat in the home of former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Gulp. Don’t drop anything Louise.

Finally it was time to meet his holiness. The door opened and a firm hand grabbed mine, pulling me into the room. Attached to said hand was the smiling face of the Dalai Lama. I photographed the interview first, he did a great job of engaging the whole room (which was probably annoying for Steven!), and occasionally I would catch his eye as he answered questions.  I smiled back over-excitedly, hanging on his every word which was great until I realised he was often saying quite grave things about the current refugee crisis, etc, so I would have to quickly change my face to one of serious consideration. I’m not going to lie, he could have been telling me he’d murdered my cat and I would have been beaming back at him. The 30 minute interview sped through in what felt like five, but then it was my moment to have his full attention as I pulled a light in front of him and took the cover shot for this weeks Big Issue.

The whole experience was brilliant, he was full of fun, cheer and wisdom and it’s certainly a shoot I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

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