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Richard Christiani  

Photographer

A native Californian, Richard Christiani combines a lifelong involvement with photography, art and architecture with a love of the mountains and an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. In addition to undergraduate and graduate studies in architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, he also has formal training in both photography and art.

Christiani grew up in the Bay Area, hiking and skiing with his family in the Sierra Nevada. Shortly after graduating from Woodside High School in 1968, he took up both rock climbing and photography. Whether he was ascending big walls in Yosemite, ice climbing on glaciers in Canada or skiing off peaks in the Andes, his camera was always with him on his adventures. He found it sharpened his appreciation and memory of the wild and beautiful places he loved.

In the 1980s and 90s, Christiani took long backpacking trips with his wife and children every summer, hiking the John Muir Trail and other routes in the Sequoia, Kings Canyon John Muir wilderness areas of the Sierra Nevada. In addition to the load on his back, he would always carry a camera, tripod and an assortment of lenses to record their journeys and capture the magnificent scenery they passed through. Likewise, he captured the Alps while touring on skis and the red canyons of the Southwest on long hikes.

When Christiani's access to the mountains became limited after a climbing accident shattered his ankle in 1997, he looked for beauty in urban landscapes. He traveled to cities in the US, Europe and Asia photographing buildings, temples and other details and forms that caught his eye.

Missing the mountains, Christiani eventually began hiking again despite the pain. When it became tolerable, he signed up for a trek in Bhutan in 2004. During that trip, he fell in love with the Himalayas. He also felt a strong affinity with the Buddhist culture and the people he met there. “Mountain people” like himself. He’d felt a similar connection with the indigenous people of the Andes on an expedition twenty-five years before.

The trip inspired Christiani to learn more about Buddhism and he began a study program at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute in Berkeley when he returned. He went back to the Himalayas for more adventures, too. To Mt. Kanchenjunga in Sikkim, India in 2005, the North Col of Everest in Tibet in 2006, the Annapurna circuit and the summit of Mt. Pisang in Nepal in 2008. In the process, he amassed a large collection of digital photographs of Himalayan landscapes, culture and people. So he enrolled in classes at the University of California, Berkeley Extension to improve and update his technical skills in digital photography.

In the fall of 2011, he returned to Nepal again to do two treks. The first was from Simikot in western Nepal into Tibet, to Lake Manasarovar and around Mount Kailash. Kang Rinpoche, as it’s known to the Tibetans, is their holiest of mountains and like the lake, an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. The second trek was into the Upper Dolpo in western Nepal, a desolate region on the backside of Mt. Dhaulagiri which is populated by Tibetans. The Dolpo’s remoteness and inaccessibility has preserved its Tibetan culture in relatively pure form. Peter Matthiessen wrote about it in "The Snow Leopard" and it was the site of the movie "Himalaya." Christiani’s photographs during these treks capture the stark beauty of both places as well as the devoutness of the Tibetan people.

Christiani is President of Christiani Johnson Architects, a San Francisco firm. He currently lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife. The Christiani’s make contributions to the Tibetan Aid Project every year and all profits from the sale of Christiani's photographs are donated to the organization.

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