About the Photographer
American, b. 1938
Based in Chicago, Lawrence Snider has been taking photographs in certain regions of the world for 30 years, documenting the people and landscapes he encounters while traveling. The photographs represented here are from China, Tibet, Bhutan, and the mountainous region of Ladakh in Northern India, although Snider has also made bodies of work in Myanmar and Peru.
The individual people or small groups in Snider's black and white portraits typically wear traditional attire and pose in fairly rustic settings. Looking at most of these photographs, whether a portrait of an old woman sitting in front of a stack of wood in China or a boy leaning in a doorway in Bhutan, it is hard to determine when the photograph was taken—it could have been last month or fifty years ago. In part this is due to the classic elegance of his photographs and their carefully balanced compositions, yet it also comes down to the very nature of his subject matter. Reflecting on his work in 2008, Snider said, "What I wanted to find were places less visited by travelers, areas where 'time present was still time past.' I wanted to find the outward posts not yet Westernized, where life was substantially less complex than that found in major metropolitan areas."
Some of the nations where Snider has photographed take efforts to minimize the intrusion of Western culture, most notably Bhutan, which limits the number of visitors each year. Other countries, however, are less closed off and international influences are more evident in daily life. In this regard, the impression of a certain cultural purity in Snider's photographs, or the sense that the past overlaps with the present, also owe to the choices he makes behind the camera. His decisions about where to stand, what to focus on, and what to exclude from the frame collectively direct our attention to certain aspects of these cultures that will eventually disappear.
Snider was born in Detroit, Michigan. He completed a BA at the University of Michigan in 1960 and then attended the university's law school, earning a JD in 1963. In addition to his long-term pursuits as a photographer, Snider is a practicing lawyer and an active collector of photography.