Sikkim: Through the lens of Dr. Alice S Kandell

Boy playing with Kite Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell
Dr. Alice Kandell hiding behind a Sikkimese soldier to  take a photograph of a Chinese soldier along the Nathu-La Pass

Khyentse Rinponche Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell 

Lepcha Man and Woman standing near Singhik Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Lepcha man in traditional bamboo hat and woven clothing  holding knife in Singhik Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell 

Lepcha women in traditional clothing in Singhik Pic Dr.Alice Kandell

Mt. Kanchenjunga, third highest mountain in the world Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Nepalese family outside of clay home Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell 

People herding yaks along a mountain path to higher grazing land Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Person crossing river on a wooden bridge Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell

Prince Palden (Second from Left) making silly faces with friends Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Rumtek Monastery seen from across courtyard Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Selling Rice in Gangtok Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Singlay Lama & grandchildren sit in haystack near Singhik Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell 

Suspension Bridge over River Pic:Dr. Alice Kandell

Two Men secure wood logs on Yak's back Pic: Dr. Alice Kandell

Dr. Alice S. Kandell, of New York City, New York, is a child psychologist formerly affiliated with Mt. Sinai Hospital. Additionally, Dr. Kandell is an author and professional photographer, having published books on subjects ranging from Mountaintop Kingdom: Sikkim to children's books such as Max the Music Maker and Ben's ABC Day. Dr. Kandell is also Vice President of the Board of the International League for Human Rights and President of the International Vocal Arts Institute, whose faculty is affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera. She also performs in non-singing roles with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She received her Doctorate in Child Psychology from Harvard University.
Dr. Alice S. Kandell first visited Sikkim in 1965 to attend the coronation ceremony where Hope Cooke, a close friend from Sarah Lawrence College, became the first American-born queen. The Chogyal (king) Palden Thondup Namgyal asked Dr. Kandell to use photography to document the indigenous cultures of Sikkim and to show how he and Hope were improving education and local businesses. With this special access, Dr. Kandell created a visual encyclopedia of Sikkimese life as it was before India absorbed the kingdom.
Dr. Kandell returned to Sikkim many times, while also completing her doctorate degree in child psychology at Harvard University and establishing her career in New York City. Growing political struggles between India and Sikkim brought the photography project to a close in the early 1970s. During a final trip in 1979, she photographed the wedding of Princess Yangchen Dolma.

Her collection grew to more than 15,000 color slides and black-and-white photographs taken while traveling extensively through a country the size of Delaware. Dr. Kandell went high in the mountains to meet farmers and traders who allowed her to photograph their families and homes. She attended Buddhist religious ceremonies, captivated by the music, masks, and dances. She captured formal and informal scenes with the royal family in Gangtok as well as artisans with their crafts, children in schools, and the remarkable landscape.
Two books published in 1971 feature these photographs-- Mountaintop Kingdom: Sikkim (with text by Charlotte Salisbury) and a book for children called Sikkim: The Hidden Kingdom. Dr. Kandell also wrote and illustrated articles about Sikkim forRedbookHolidayScholastic, and The Saturday Evening Post.

During an exhibit of Sikkim photographs at the Camera Club of New York in 1971, Dr. Kandell said, "I tried to use my camera to communicate the warmth and openness of the people of Sikkim. I wanted to capture the beauty that is everywhere." A second exhibition was held at the Asia Society in New York, sponsored by the International Center of Photography, in 1975.
Inspired by her experience in Sikkim, Dr. Kandell went on to assemble a major collection of Budhhist art and religious objects. This Tibetan shrine with original paintings, sculpture, and furniture is now at the Smithsonian Institution. She also retained her connections to the Sikkimese people. In 2010, Hope Cooke joined Dr. Kandell at the Library of Congress to describe their work in Sikkim. The webcast from this program, "A Tour of the Lost Kingdom: Sikkim," can be viewed online.

Note: The details about Dr. Alice S Kandell are collected from ‘Biography of the Photographer’ that is available on the website of Library of Congress