Pushing limits one photo at a time: Tenzin Namgyel


Anna Tarter, Managing Editor

When most  people think of a tool, they imagine a hammer or wrench. Nationally recognized photographer and senior at George Mason Tenzin Namgyel on the other hand, views his trusty camera as just as valuable.

“Everytime I pick up a camera, I get a nice familiar feeling. It’s the same as if you pick up an instrument, and start playing it… Like a familiar tool,” he described.

Tenzin’s journey into photography all started on his fifteenth birthday, when his grandfather gave him an old film camera. After learning the basics, he began to explore his own style of expression, which mainly included a more fine arts approach, but also involved some photojournalistic elements as well.

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“I would start coming up with these ideas, drafting them, drawing them, writing them down,” he explained. “[I’ve] drawn influences from a lot of pieces of art like paintings and drawings. Nighthawk [by Edward Hopper] is one piece I drew influences from in some of my older works”

Tenzin’s gold medal winning picture for the Scholastic art and writing awards on a National level, titled “Writer’s Block”. (Photo by Tenzin Namgyel)

Besides shooting photos for nonprofit groups like Images For Good, Tenzin also uses his power as a photographer to inspire change in society, as most of his photos focus on a cause. Through his lense, he was able to highlight Suicide Awareness Month, and focus on important issues such as depression.

According to Tenzin, “photography can trigger a feeling; positive or negative, and a change.”

Although Tenzin has won several impressive awards for his photography, such as the gold medal  National Scholastic award for his photo “Writer’s Block” as well as a scholarship to MICA (Maryland Institute for College of Art), he still faces challenges in taking the perfect photo and has learned to push boundaries along the way.

“I have so much trouble explaining my ideas to my friends. When I’m trying to help them pose or set up a photo, they’re always like ‘what do you want me to do?’ Yesterday I was literally pushing my friend, like ‘here goes your hand’ and ‘move three steps that way.’”

Tenzin said that photography has taken him to a lot of strange places he wouldn’t normally go to and made him do things he wouldn’t normally do.

“Just yesterday I was literally in a creek taking a photo of my friend with a shirt spray-painted with a target on her face and one of my other friends was holding a gun to her head. I would never have thought of doing that without my camera.”

Tenzin’s photo titled “Target Practice” in photoseries called Loopholes.  This picture plays on the topic of gun violence, and incorporates the idea of human targets, inspired by the style of Nicolas Bruno, (Photo via Tenzin’s website)

Tenzin has been to abandoned buildings, tops of buildings, creeks, and has even had the cops called on him, all for the sake of photography.

“My favorite part of photography is how real it is, and how much you can do with the realism factor. If you want, you can change it (the picture) completely, like Andy Warhol style, or you could go completely black and white or you can have these really saturated colors,” he said.

This year, Tenzin has been shooting more black and white works, with a melancholy touch. This includes a photo series titled “Of Masks and Men,” exploring themes of the human existence, inspired by the novel Of Mice and Men.

In the future, however, Tenzin plans on taking a slightly different route, into filmmaking.

“Not a lot of my close friends know this, but I’m really into filmmaking so I’m probably going to go into the filmmaking route. After a certain point in photography, there isn’t much more you can learn,” Tenzin said.

Tenzin has written, directed, edited, and shot short films, music videos as well as lookbooks. His passion for photography and the camera has pushed him to new experiences, and brought awareness to social issues.

“He’s one of the kids that has managed to really figure out what he’s passionate about and go after it, and is also surprisingly diverse in his talents and interests. Also he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet,” senior Rachel Lambert said.

If you’re interested in having your senior photo shot, want a head shot, pictures of an event, or have an idea for a fine arts photo, you can contact Tenzin through his website: https://www.tenzinnamgyel.com/.