As she crosses Asia on her own, the path of a 30-year-old French girl accidentally crosses that of a unique religious community, tiny and composed exclusively of women. They live in Puntsokling: one of the ten totally destitute Buddhist nunnery of Zanskar, a valley on the edge of the Himalayas in northwestern India, still isolated from the rest of the country by its inhospitable geography.
This meeting at the end of the world will change the course of her existence and, without a doubt, that of the nuns. A revelation and a long human as well as spiritual journey.
Caroline Riegel's book is a two-sided journey. Through the story she tells us, we discover both the charm of a unique "tribe" with astonishing sorority (a journey into the intimate) and the masterful beauty of their territory (a journey into the landscapes). But humans are inseparable from the environment in which they live. Here, the harshness of the elements did not generate that of the characters but their dazzling vitality. The hostile environment strengthened hearts, embracing in one movement the spirituality and uncompromising beauty of Nature. Devoid of the superfluous, these Sowers rub shoulders with the essence of the soul, the awareness of Happiness.
Caroline Riegel's photographs demonstrate the closeness that she has created with her "subjects", giving photographic work the power to reveal the Other and to make him access the universal. The still image gives them a voice and opens up intercultural and intergenerational dialogue. Caroline Riegel is not just a simple spectator, her photography is not sidelined, it does not freeze the Other. On the contrary, it is the source of life, and testifies to the flourishing of bodies, faces and souls. Her camera is a tool she uses to testify to the uniqueness of this extraordinary community to as many people as possible.
Caroline Riegel delivers a luminous tribute, in images and words, to these women who have found, in the heart of the Zanskar mountains, far from the modern world, a balance of life. Faced with destitution: joy. Faced with loneliness: solidarity. In the face of autarky: authenticity.
In the same way that Matthieu Ricard - the preface's author - speaks of wonder to the world, the smile of The Sowers of Joy testifies to their singular gaze on what surrounds them, on the meaning of existence, on simplicity of life.
In the great tradition of books by traveling photographers, The Sowers of Joy is both an ode to Nature, a unique encounter with otherness, an openness to the world, a quest for meaning, a tribute humanist, a family album where love, respect and benevolence burst out on every page.
Photographer Caroline Riegel has lived day after day with these nuns from afar. His photographs are snapshots of simple gestures in a mostly agrarian community, where each activity gives its rhythm to the unfolding of the days, according to the seasons. Often ancestral practices, carried by a Buddhist culture almost 1000 years old.